St Andrews APCM 2021 – Additional

At the service before the APCM, Revd Rosie delivered a sermon which was the incumbent’s report for the APCM, in the context of the Gospel. The text of it is copied below.

Trinity 4 Year B – APCM
Mark 5.21- end


Today I’m going to combine my reflection on the last year with the sermon as it needs to be placed within the context of the gospel.

So 2020 -what a year!

I’d like you to think for a moment about how you reached out and helped others in the last year? How did you use your hands to help others?
We all found ourselves in a situation where we couldn’t do what we would normally do so we had to find new ways to help our neighbour, shopping, collecting prescriptions, making phone calls, being treated to fish and chips, going for a walk together, crafting things and donating to the food share. To name but a few! Hands doing many kind deeds.

We had to close the church for many weeks, in fact we only had 10 Sundays in person in church last year, no weddings, no baptisms, but an exceptional amount of funerals. There were no visits from the school, the church was cleared out and cleaned and open for private prayer only twice a week, the bells went silent. And St Agnes was closed up.

The church doors may have remained closed for a long time but we were very much in action stations.

The 3rd Sunday in Lent, the 17th March was our last Sunday in church. Worship went online, we made the most of the situation we faced, we waded through and grappled with technology, but we got there. There were weekly phone calls, zoom services, zoom coffee, Whatsapp video calls to the care homes – still continues, weekly zoom assemblies with school, facebook live every week for Prayers and Bears. And when we could we went outside. Messy church was and still is jointly run with our neighbours from All Saints held in the school playground and prayers and bears met at the park. There was weekly zoom bible study on the women in the bible and churchyard trails. And we had a prayer a day sent out in the second lockdown. We didn’t have an All Souls service but we did invite back funeral families from over the years, to come and help us light up the church yard- which they did. Numbers were restricted for funerals so I held kerbside services so that all the neighbours could come out and pay their respects and the families could see how much they were cared for. Then with the help of the Milli wives choir we went back to those roads and did carol singing for them.  No we didn’t have the annual carols for loved ones- but together with the local funeral directors and woodys café – all those funeral families were invited to the park to light up a tree and listen to carols from the choir to remember loved ones -it was a really special community service. The church porch was used to highlight the themes of the liturgical year, we had the Christmas lights up and the nativity in the porch and churchyard was a great success. CTW produced a virtual Advent calendar, pews news was perfected to include music and spoken word and was sent out all over the world. we were blessed to have guest preachers in Canon Brian and Revd Louise. When God comes to dwell in the midst, things happen.

Ten Years ago this weekend I was ordained priest at Reading Minster. Part of the service involves the bishop anointing our hands – hands to give Gods blessing, forgiveness and healing. Hands anointed to God’s work, God’s purpose. The whole church, lay or ordained, hands are at the heart of God, and it is with God in our hands that transforms those who we reach out to.

In the gospel reading today we had the familiar story of the woman who reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and Jairus and his daughter. Both the woman and Jairus came seeking Jesus, they knew that there was nothing left for them, Jairus in his desperate need to help his child, and the woman- to be healed from such a debilitating illness that had kept her unclean and shunned by the community for so long. They reached out to Jesus and their needs were met.

I wonder, in this present day, to have their needs met, would the woman and Jairus turn to the church?

Anybody can do kind deeds, give to the homeless project or the food banks, and we have seen society step up in the last year. You all did kind deeds but did you really believe you were doing God’s work?

What you offer with your hands is because you know God loves you?

We can’t offer it if we don’t know it ourselves.

What is it that the church has to offer?

If the church is not going to offer God with its hands, then there is no relevance for the church in the future.

All those years ago TT Carter and the nuns built up everything here in Clewer, but gradually it is nearly all gone.

So now we find ourselves in a position where the secular world are using hands for anything, food banks, support hubs, you can have a wedding anywhere, civil celebrants funerals and you can have a pure cremation for less than half the price. Baptism numbers have gone down and for some, that is because they can’t find godparents who are baptized.

What is the relevancy of the church as we come out of the pandemic?

We have a future – if we share God.

The only relevance of the church is to allow God to use our hands and voice to proclaim Christ, Proclaim Christ in Clewer – PCC.

If we cannot do that, then in 10 years’ time there may not be a church in Clewer.

The big question for all of us is -How is the church, with capitol C, going to transform and be relevant in the future?

Not just kind deeds but preaching the gospel.

The power of God was so central in Jesus that the woman felt she just needed to touch the hem of his coat. Even though he had heard that his daughter had died, in his grief Jairus, still persisted with Jesus because he knew Jesus had the answer.
Our church needs to be places where people turn to, how is Clewer going to be a place where all people turn to?

We have to transform what we do so that people reach out to us.

If we are not relevant, we will be redundant and if redundant we will be closed.

Anyone can do good deeds but not everyone does them because of God and faith.

I invite you to hold out your hands in front of you and make the sign of the cross on each of your palms as I read these words.

St Theresa of Avila said:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

 
Amen.

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