In the Book of Common Prayer the feast of the Epiphany is helpfully subtitled ‘the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles’. The wise men from the east represented the Gentile world just as the shepherds, who had been the first to visit the new-born Jesus, represented the Jewish people. In Christ God was revealed to all – “a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of his people Israel.”
The early rapid spread of the Gospel among the Gentiles was largely thanks to the efforts of St Paul. He is a towering figure in the history of the Church. If it were not for Paul Christianity would probably have remained a small and insignificant Jewish sect. Not only did he take the Gospel to the Gentile world, founding churches all around the Mediterranean. Almost a third of what we now call the New Testament consists of his letters to those churches.
The key event in Paul’s life was his amazing conversion. It is remembered every year on January 25th - an epiphany experience celebrated in Epiphanytide. Paul, travelling along the road to Damascus with the intention of persecuting the Christians there, saw “a light in the midday sun, more brilliant than the sun” that caused him and his companions to fall to the ground. Paul (whose name before his conversion was
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Standing frequently used expressions on their heads can be fun.
The result can be sheer nonsense, but it can sometimes point us to something important. Here’s one of my favourites:
“Don’t just do something, stand there!”
This is highly dangerous territory for a parish priest; and especially for one who is constantly being humbled by the enormous amount of sheer hard work put in by volunteers to keep the parochial show on the road. Their dedication is amazing, yet, despite there being a good number of them, here, as everywhere, they only make up a minority of the congregation. This is not always the fault of the majority, and age and infirmity are not the only reasons for people’s unwillingness to take on responsibilities. But be that as it may, the heroic efforts of “the few” are not unnoticed, neither are they unappreciated. I know how much I depend on them, and am truly grateful.
But too much activity can have a serious downside. A question we all do well to ask ourselves from time to time is “what would I like to be remembered for?” Our answer is likely to be influenced more than
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Many thanks to all who contributed in any way to our celebrations on 30th July. You certainly helped to make it a day to remember. Among the contributors was the Archdeacon of Derby, who has kindly provided a transcript of the sermon he preached at the Sung Eucharist. It is printed here in place of the usual ‘vicar’s letter’ in the hope that it will be preserved for posterity – as were the sermons preached on the church’s tenth anniversary.
When a centurion heard that Jesus might be able to save his dying servant he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask for his help. This what they said: “He is worthy to have you do this for him he loves our nation, and he has built us our synagogue.” The centurion deserved the people’s gratitude for giving the people a new place of worship, just as the sixth Earl Fitzwilliam deserves the gratitude of the people of Wentworth for a similar gift.
Similar, but not identical. The new church at Wentworth, whose 140th anniversary we have just celebrated, is more of a temple than a local synagogue. It’s capable, as we saw at the confirmation service in May this year, of accommodating large gatherings of worshippers from (relatively) far and wide. And it’s a magnificent venue for concerts and various kinds of cultural and social activities as well as for weddings, baptisms, funerals and the regular round of services.
Having a parish church of such size and quality is a great privilege. It’s also a great responsibility – both financially and in other ways. Our Lord’s words when he drove out those dishonest dealers who bought and sold in the temple are often unfairly cited to condemn all sorts of innocent activity - and especially income generation (however necessary) - in church buildings: “Is it not written ‘My house shall be
One hundred and forty years have passed since the spire of Wentworth’s new parish church rose high above the tower of the old church to become a landmark visible for miles around. The building of the new church was begun on June 14th 1873 with the laying of a ‘memorial stone.’ The solemn occasion was described in vivid detail by a local versifier in lines which might well have been written by William McGonagall, of “Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay” fame if it weren’t for the fact that they couldn’t have been. In his autobiography McGonagall, who is widely regarded as the writer of the worst poetry in the English language, said this of himself: “I may say Dame Fortune has been very kind to me by endowing me with the genius of poetry. I remember how I felt when I received the spirit of poetry. It was in the year of 1877, and in the month of June, when trees and flowers were in full bloom.” Strange, then, that it was only a few weeks after that, on July 31st, Wentworth’s new church - a building the laying of whose foundation stone had been recorded in a manner worthy of McGonagall himself, and a the fine examples of English gothic revival architecture - was consecrated by the Archbishop of York.
On Sunday July 31st 1887 the tenth anniversary of the church’s consecration was observed, and the two sermons preached on that day (one of which was quite hard-hitting) have survived. On Sunday July 31st 1898 the church’s ”‘Coming of Age” was celebrated, and a special
It was a glorious June day just in the week before Whit Sunday. Chris and I had driven up to the Lake District intending to stay for two nights opposite a village church in the aptly named Crown & Mitre Inn. But we were in for a surprise. On arrival we were told that we’d been expected the day before - so instead of spending two nights there we could only have one. For our second night we’d have to go somewhere else.
The proprietor of the Crown & Mitre did at least find us somewhere - in a neighbouring village - and we were made very comfortable there. But again we were treated to something unexpected. When presented with our room key there was no number on it - just one word ‘FAITH.’ Was this some sort of joke at my expense? I didn’t think my