Vicar's Letter

September 2017

Dear Friends,

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.


August 2017

Dear Friends,

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

July 2017

Dear Friends,

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

June 2017

Dear Friends,

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

May 2017

Dear Friends,

“You’re joking. Not another election!” Brenda from Bristol’s reaction to the prospect of having to endure over a month of non-stop electioneering will have been echoed by many. However important it is that we should all have our say, we can still suffer from election fatigue.

When the apostles elected a successor to the traitor Judas they simply drew lots, no doubt believing that by doing so they were placing the decision in God’s hands. The college of cardinals, when they meet in secret conclave to elect a new pope, expect the result of their ballots to reflect God’s choice. After his election Pope John Paul 1 was acclaimed by Cardinal Basil Hume as “God’s candidate.” Thirty-three days later he was dead. That doesn’t necessarily mean John Paul1 was not God’s candidate, but it

April 2017

The funeral of The Revd Richard Buckley, in the form of a requiem mass, brought to mind some words inscribed on a modest tablet in St Paul’s cathedral commemorating its architect, Sir Christopher Wren: “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice” – “if you seek his monument, look around you.” Fr. Richard’s monument was not the building we were in, but rather the gathering of people, family, parishioners, friends and colleagues who had come to give thanks for his life and to share in the sacrament through which we are all, living and departed, joined together in one communion and fellowship.

I only knew Richard for a little over a year, but that has been long enough to appreciate his quiet courtesy. The relationship between a parish priest and his predecessor or successor is not always straightforward, and he handled it with a delicacy which immediately put me at ease. He couldn’t have been

March 2017

Some good news for a change! On the evening of Sunday May 21st Holy Trinity Wentworth will be hosting a confirmation service. It’s several years since one was last held here, so it’s an opportunity not to be missed. Whether or not you are among those who have already expressed an interest, if you wish to be confirmed please get in touch with me as soon as possible so that suitable preparation can be arranged. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t involve passing any exams.

In the Church of England confirmation is the traditional gateway to being admitted to Holy Communion. This has its merits, though with baptism being the one necessary rite of initiation there is no hard and fast rule about it. The Church of England also reserves the administering of

February 2017

Dear Friends,

I’ve never been particularly fussy about how I’m addressed. I’ll happily answer to ‘Michael,’ ‘Vicar,’ ‘Father Michael’ or ‘Mr. Champneys,’ though I prefer not be called ‘Reverend.’ Crockford’s Clerical Directory rather pompously decrees that ‘Reverend’ should never be used this side of the Atlantic without the definite article and a Christian name or initial! ‘Your Reverence’, which always reminds me of the verger in Dad’s Army, is not given as an alternative – but it can hardly fail to raise a smile.

Such niceties of etiquette have always fascinated the Hyacinth Bouquets of this world, and most people like to get them right if they can. But whereas they’re of no great consequence, reverence itself does matter.

According to the Prayer Book catechism, learnt by heart by many generations of children, part of’ ‘my duty towards my neighbour’ is ‘to order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters.’ The trouble with that is that it reduces reverence to deference. Of course there’s no denying the value of good manners, but to give the impression that reverence is principally due to

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