Sermons

Sermon celebrating Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce, from Rev’d Ian Tattum

Very recently Sir Mo Farah revealed to the world that that was not his real name and that he had been born Hussein Abdi Kahin. Contrary to what he had let be known previously, he hadn’t fled from Somalia with his parents as a child, but had been trafficked by people who wanted to use him as a modern day child slave, looking after their children and doing all kinds of domestic tasks. Before this revelation he was a well-respected figure, known for his cheerfulness, who many of us had cheered to Olympic gold medals. Since the truth came out there has been extra focus on modern slavery, and many other people have come forward who were silent before to tell their story and get help.

This is a powerful example of what is sometimes called changing the narrative. People can be wary of such things and express great skepticism about what they call ‘revisionism’, and they don’t mean it as a compliment. This point of view goes very close to saying that what has always been assumed to be true is true and should never be looked at again. I have regularly called this the Ladybird book interpretation of history. Everything about the past can be regarded as already known and settled and is only fit for repetition, not revisiting.

Mo Farah’s story is one example of why this isn’t quite good enough, and the brilliant TV drama Sherwood is another. The miners’ strike is one of those contentious moments in the past which is also, for many, a defining political moment, whether we were around at the time or not; but in my view, that series, like all the best dramas, invites us to reconsider and reflect on the experiences and dilemmas of people with a multitude of perspectives, which can challenge and enrich our own and, like the best parables of Jesus, encourage empathy and compassion.

Yesterday was the day in the church’s calendar set aside to give thanks for the lives of the leading figures in the abolition of slavery. At one point, not that long ago, the main focus would have been on William Wilberforce, so well known for steering the abolition of the slave trade act through Parliament in 1807, but now two other major characters are named: Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano.

You might have heard of Equiano, but probably don’t know his full history.

His campaigning in the wake of the Zong affair was the spur to the foundation of the first anti-slavery committee set up by the Quakers in 1783. The fore-mentioned Thomas Clarkson was to be a prominent leader of this group and was one of those who subsequently contributed to persuading Wilberforce that joining the campaign was his sacred Christian duty.

The Zong incident is one of those things that culture warriors don’t like to hear about. It was centred on an insurance claim. In 1783 Captain Collingwood brought and won an insurance claim for cargo he had jettisoned at sea in order to save his ship The Zong and its remaining cargo.

That cargo, of course, was African slaves. As was common practice, Collingwood had packed his slave ship with living cargo, and many people had died or fallen ill. Knowing that he could claim on the insurance if he could show some of his cargo needed to be sacrificed to save the voyage, he argued falsely that there was not enough water on board to keep everyone alive and threw 132 people to their deaths.

Equiano, on reading about the case, lobbied anti-slavery lawyer Granville Sharp to make a case for the incident to be looked into again, but this time as a murder trial. The attempt failed but the publicity – the act of changing the narrative – worked.

But who was Equiano, and why was he listened too?

His story is an astonishing one of survival and achievement. He was born in Nigeria, around 1745. He was enslaved and transported to Barbados and then on to the British Colony of Virginia. Purchased by an English Naval Officer, he was re-named Gustavus Vassa and taken to London, where he was used as part servant part luxury pet. But he was taught to read and write.

He accompanied Pascal on voyages to Canada during the Seven Years’ War with France and undertook seafaring duties. He was swindled of his wages and at age 18 was sold again and taken to work on Montserrat, where his education saved him from working on a plantation but didn’t stop him observing what went on there.

Bought again, by a Quaker, Robert King, he was allowed to take up sea-faring again and was able to save up and buy his freedom.

Coming to England he found employment as a hairdresser in the Haymarket. A year later he went to work for an entrepreneurial scientist, who had developed ways to turn sea water into fresh, and travelled with him on expeditions to the Arctic.

All the time he had been observing the furtive and vulnerable lives of ex slaves in London, always living in fear of being re-captured by their ex masters. He became an advocate for such people and began to make contacts with legal experts who would cooperate with him – all when still in his twenties. He went on to organise a network of lobbying ex-slaves, called the Sons of Africa, and wrote a best-selling autobiography, his Interesting Narrative, which changed even more hearts and minds.

Famously, the inspirer of Methodism and great hymn writer, John Wesley, read Equiano’s book on his deathbed in 1791 and promptly dashed off a letter to Wilberforce pleading with him to do all he could to end the slave trade.

Sermon on Mary Magdalene for Sunday 24th July from Rev’d Ian Tattum

A purely rhetorical question: What do you know about Mary Magdalene?

Some of you might immediately think of the story, so familiar from Easter, of Mary Magdalene meeting Jesus after the Resurrection in the garden outside the tomb – when she initially mistakes him for the gardener. That is one of the great Easter stories we can read about in St John’s Gospel, and it has often been depicted in art – most famously, perhaps, by Titian. And usually, as in the well-known painting by Titian, the emphasis of the art is the moment when Jesus says ‘Do not touch me’, ‘Noli me tangere’ in the Latin Bible, which was the most respected translation in Western Europe when the bulk of the art telling the story was produced. Rembrandt, however, painted a version where the emphasis is on the moment of recognition: the point where Jesus calls her by name and she recognises his voice.

The contrast between these two pictures is a good way into a fairer appreciation of St Mary Magdalene’s importance as a real person, a Christian witness and disciple. It is a contrast between someone a bit suspect, a notorious ex-sinner perhaps still dangerous, who might be used to symbolise some kind of sexual threat to Christ (too earthbound) and a person who was one of the most important of the apostles – one who had known Jesus since the beginning of his mission in Galilee and who not only had the honour of being the first person to experience the Resurrection and report it to the world but also was one of the tiny group of women who witnessed the agony of Christ’s crucifixon while the male disciples ran away and hid somewhere!

Because of the dominance of the point of view that inspired Titian, we still have to work hard to shake off a case of mistaken identity that stops us seeing her more clearly, as did the early third-century theologian St Hippolytus of Rome, who called Mary Magdalene the Apostle to the Apostles.

If you want to know who the culprit was who transformed a founding female member of the Church into a reformed sinner and prostitute, it was the sixth-century pope, Gregory the Great, who said so in a sermon – sermons can be dangerous things! (Incidentally, he was the same Pope Gregory who sent the monk who became St Augustine of Canterbury on his mission to the English.) Gregory conflated a number of stories about other women – including the woman Jesus rescued from stoning and the woman, said by Luke to be ‘a great sinner’, who washed Jesus’ feet with ointment – with details about Mary Magdalene to create an archetypal woman in need of salvation.

Those who are feeling generous might see this as a misguided creative act of theological imagination shaped by cultural context, but it also helped to inspire centuries of Christian misogyny, which is still imbedded in the churches and is particularly visible in the USA at the moment. This fantasy Mary is very far removed from the one we first hear about in Chapter 8 of St Luke’s Gospel, whose significance is astonishing even there and whose backstory is not one of spectacular sinfulness at all, but psychological distress.

Here is the reference in full:

Jesus ‘journeyed through every city and village proclaiming and announcing the good tidings of the Kingdom of God, and the twelve along with him, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had come out, and Joanna, wife of Chuza the steward of Herod, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them from their own possessions.’

Here Mary is not a notorious sinner but a notorious sufferer, one who had found her life transformed by her encounter with Jesus; but she is also a notorious provider. The ideal that we later come across in the book of Acts, that in the early church the community of apostles and disciples shared wealth and property, seems to go back to within Jesus’ ministry itself – with Mary Magdalene and other women setting the example! The whole enterprise, this passage seems to indicate, was a collective one. It was focussed around Jesus’ message, and the better-known twelve male disciples were involved too, but Mary, Joanna and Susanna were prominent, not just as funders, but as participants in the whole mission.

The role of women in the early church has often been downplayed, of course. Noticing Mary Magdalene helps us to notice how much so. For instance, if you go to the last chapter of St Paul’s letter to the Romans, you will find him greeting all his co-workers in spreading the Gospel, of whom a third are women, and one – Junia – he calls an ‘apostle’.

A little aside on this: In the early 1990’s I was one of the people who went around deaneries, debating the case for the ordination of women. A common argument against was that in some ancient manuscripts of Romans the name is Junias (a man’s name), so this wasn’t a woman at all. Other manuscripts in which she is ‘Julia’ were never brought up, oddly enough.

So, Mary Magdalene should be celebrated and remembered, not as the fantasy saint she was turned into but as the one she was.

For me, today, one of the most important things about her is that she displayed a steadfastness few of the male apostles could aspire to, which seems to have been born out of her own experience of suffering. When, even in the churches, it is sometimes suggested that faith is a way to immunise yourself against life, she never ran away and never turned her back on suffering. She didn’t seek riches or status but gave generously, with a liberality from a place of freedom. Hers was a life not of subservient duty but of faith-filled grace.

Rightly called the Apostle to the Apostles.

Sometime in the second century a Gospel of Mary Magdalene was written. It suggests that she was the one who, after Jesus’ death, inspired the male disciples to get over themselves, to stop cowering in a corner and get out there and live out and preach the Gospel.

From what Luke tells us I sense she did that all along.

Sermon on Colossians and the Good Samaritan from Rev’d Ian Tattum

The word ‘toleration’ is an interesting one. To some people it might mean something close to benign indifference: as long as they don’t bother me too much, I wont bother them either. Others would want to take things a bit further and want to know what the people one was tolerating thought and believed and how they behaved and be content to actually spend time with them.

A third type of toleration is a bit harder, and one which a lot of us worry is being made even harder in our social media world of ideologically driven clans and tribes: being patient and respectful towards people we really don’t agree with. That often happens within our own families and with friends –with those closest to us who dissent from our most precious opinions and values.

With this in mind we might understand how, troubling as it might be, in the medieval world, when the churches got increasingly worried about dissenting theological views and religious practices, the word ‘toleration’ was used to mean the time you had to change your mind, or at least keep silent, before the Inquisition came to call.

We all know that language shifts through time and due to context, and the same is true of the word ‘love’ – which I think of as a kinship word to ‘toleration’ – I will come back to that. In Western cultures, thanks to art and poetry, it is quite hard to think of the idea of love without connecting it with strong emotion and affection and, I would suggest, even bias.  Love is associated particularly strongly with our individual desires and passions. So, shifting to a biblical perspective from our own might not be easy. Jesus’ famous story of the courageous and risk-taking Samaritan was told as part of a theological debate about two very big questions. What is the most spiritually important value to practice and develop? And what shape does love take?

An expert on the Jewish law asked a mischievous question that he knew the answer to already. He very respectfully called Jesus ‘teacher’, but his tone, Luke implies, is that of someone trying to catch the country bumpkin, self-appointed prophet, out.

He asks Jesus: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus responds by asking him what the law; the tradition, says. And the lawyer, as our translation calls him, replies with those very familiar words:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

It is only when he then throws at Jesus a supplementary question, which looks very much like the sort of question we have all surely come across, which is more about deflecting or demonstrating cleverness.

Ah, but who is my neighbour?

It looks as if he was seeking a semantic argument. But that is not what he gets.

I would suggest that he gets much more than he bargains for, because Jesus does not tell a story which just defines what a neighbour is, but one that addresses the much weightier unspoken question.

How do I love God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength, and my neighbour as myself?

What we often take to be two separate things in a list – loving God and our neighbour – turn out to be a series of spiritual practices tethered together. Loving God seriously, with passion and effort, is manifested by the Samaritan’s behaviour on the road between Jerusalem and Damascus, when he comes across that traveller and stranger who is lying half dead by the side of the road.

In the parable, Jesus says nothing about the motivation of the priest and the Levite who shuffled by on the other side of the road. Theologians have speculated that it might have been because they didn’t want to be contaminated by touching a dead body, following conventional purity laws of the time, or that they were afraid that the bandits might be lurking nearby ready to ambush them.

But nothing about such things is said. All we see is the reaction and action of the Samaritan.

He is moved to pity and just goes to the injured man’s help, and takes responsibility for his care, and pays the cost.

And in a final flourish, Jesus asks another question of his questioner, and one which turns his original question on its head: not who is my neighbour, but which one of the three passers-by was the neighbour to the injured man.

The answer the lawyer gives digs down even beneath issues of social identity. The neighbour is not the Samaritan, but … the one who ‘showed mercy’.

The fascinating philosopher Gillian Rose, in her book Love’s Work, argued that love is always a form of mercy, which is not a cold acceptance like the type of toleration I mentioned earlier, but a flamboyant, risk-taking movement of the heart, which leads to commitment and – unfashionable word alert – sacrifice. Like the Samaritan in the parable.

There is a danger that we read the story of the victim of violent robbery as reducing the Gospel to an instruction to be kind, or as providing a terrifyingly challenging new ethic of risk-taking benevolence.

For Jesus, as we discover in St Luke and elsewhere, the message is: God is a God of mercy and compassion, of risking-taking and sacrifice, for us and the whole Cosmos – the Greek word usually translated as ‘the World’.

A substantial part of the message of this famous parable is that to gain eternal life, to love God, with all your heart, with all your strength, is to be so swept up by God’s mercy that you naturally want to share it. We express this whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer, where our trust in God to forgive us is linked inextricably with our intention to show similar mercy to others.

The growth in the Church that St Paul praises in his letter to the Colossians – our first reading this morning – seems to be down, not to any cunning missionary strategy, but to lives which reflect belief in a God who delights in forgiveness, love and mercy.

‘My Lord and my God!’ A Reflection for the Feast Day of St Thomas the Apostle (3rd July 2022) from Krista Ovist

Last November when Ian invited me to offer a Reflection at the beginning of Advent, the Gospel reading for that day forced me to admit that I do not expect the end of the world to be announced by the return of Jesus on a cloud.  And now, today, the Gospel reading for the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle forces me to admit that I do not believe in personal resurrection.  I do not expect my consciousness – the subjectivity and unique integral being I now experience myself to be – to survive the great leap of death

I do, however, expect to be kept in eternal life.  I expect all that composes me to decompose; to disperse and participate in endless far-flung re-compositions – resurrections, I will call them – new beginnings born from new endings.  Or, as my favourite poet, Walt Whitman, put it: I expect to ‘effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.’  And I expect the consequences of my having been composed as I am now to go on forever in innumerable, incalculable ways.

Like many of you, in other words, I do not take the resurrection accounts – and much else in the Bible besides – literally.  I do not take them at face value as records of miracles that have actually occurred.  Yet I would not like to say that I take them figuratively either.  What is figurative, after all, about the kind of resurrection I have just described: being kept in eternal life, implicated in ongoing transformation through the twin processes of birth and death, system organization and entropy?  I would say, instead, that I read the Bible in search of figurative meanings that I can take literally.

The story of doubting Thomas is a good example.

Here we are, post-Pentecost and well into so-called ‘ordinary time’, when the story Thomas suddenly blows us back to the wilderness of Easter – to that be-wildering interval between the empty tomb and the Ascension, the time of the resurrection appearances when everything was, in a very real sense, out of order for the disciples – confused and confusing, in flux and transformation.

Odd, you may think, to talk of the time of the resurrection appearances as a wilderness.  But, in Acts, Luke uses a clear biblical figure of transformative ordeal to suggest this very idea.  He writes that, after Jesus’ passion but before his Ascension, Jesus ‘showed himself alive’ to his chosen apostles ‘during forty days’ (Acts 1.3) .  Like the Flood, and the wandering of the Israelites in the desert of Sinai, and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, the time of the resurrection appearances was a forty-unit measure of turmoil.  Contrary to what we might suppose, it was not a Golden Age in the presence of God, but a passage through perilous uncertainty.  It was a version of the awful-wonderful, barren-teaming wilderness Sue Chin invited us to contemplate during Lent, where fearful attention is required to discern what to outgrow and what to become next.

Scholars who have compared the traditional initiation rites of indigenous people around the world argue that these rites often exhibit a three-phase structure.1  First, groups of initiates undergo separation from the rest of their society.  Second, while in this seclusion they witness revelations.  Their elders show them marvellous, monstrous things: fantastic images composed of opposites – part male, part female; part human, part non-human – images of impossible things contrary to everyday experience, images that reveal the rushing torrent of mutability below the surface of ordinary life, masks that unmask the chaos behind order.  Scholars call this phase the ‘liminal phase’, based on the Latin word (limen) for a threshold or limit, because in this phase initiates themselves, like the objects they are shown, are on a threshold, ‘betwixt and between’.  They are neither children as before, nor yet the adults they will become; they are in the throes of a mighty metamorphosis.  Then, finally, the initiates reintegrate into society, ready to accept adult roles and responsibilities.

It seems to me that the story of the formation of the early church fits this initiation paradigm remarkably well.  If we read the Gospel accounts together with Acts, we find several indications that, after Easter morning, the disciples withdrew and hid themselves from the rest of Jewish society.  They took a kind of wilderness retreat and, in their seclusion entered a kind of liminal phase.  Like initiates, they were betwixt and between: neither the followers of an itinerant preacher and healer as they had been before, nor yet the missionaries whose re-engagement with the world would generate the holy catholic and apostolic church.

And here is where John’s unique attention to Thomas becomes central to my search for a figurative meaning that I can take literally.  It was during this liminal phase that the disciples are said to have witnessed revelations: namely, the resurrection appearances of Jesus.  But what was it they were shown?

This symbolic story suggests to me that, like initiates, the disciples were shown something marvellous and monstrous, something fantastic composed of opposites – part life, part death; something as betwixt and between as themselves: no longer a living man in any conventional sense, nor a lifeless corpse, but an image of life and death eternally and creatively conjoined.

If it were not for the story of Thomas, however, I might miss this.  I might be inclined to imagine that the evidence of life was all that mattered in the resurrection appearances.  But Thomas leads my gaze to the evidence of death – to the fatal wounds he probes to convince himself that the being before him has really died and is not just the power of life but also the power of death.  ‘My Lord, and my God!’ he exclaims, able only to worship this awesome unedited reality.

To have faith in this – in the eternal co-existence of birth and death – is not to embrace ‘blind faith’ and accept what is presented as authoritative without reliable, repeatable demonstration; it is only to believe what is palpably evident at every moment: a brute fact if ever there was one, at once monstrous and wonderful.  And so I can say that I take these verses literally.  They declare an unchanging truth by means of a gripping and unforgettable story – what we call the Gospel.  It is Gospel Truth.  And with Thomas I can stand in awe and worship this self-evident mystery as ‘My Lord and my God!’

1See, especially:
Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (1909)
Victor Turner, The Forest of Symbols (1967)
Jean La Fontaine, Initiation: Ritual Drama and Secret Knowledge Across the World (1985)

Sermon for Pentecost 2022 from Rev’d Ian Tattum

I would like everyone to breathe in gently and then hold your breath for about 10 seconds. Then breath out.

That was not an exercise in mindfulness, although it could have turned into one, but conspiracy and inspiration.

A conspiracy is literally a breathing together, which has come to have sinister overtones. The act of breathing in is how we begin our lives, and continue them. Inspiration has come to mean to be energised to do great things or to do something new; but, basically, it just means to breathe in, something we all do without even thinking about it – including Queens and refugee Peruvian Bears.

Today, Pentecost, is a celebration of breathing, of being fully alive, of being part of a community which has breathed in the same air and of recognising that we can be inspired – with the helpful, for me anyway, re-assurance that inspiration doesn’t always have to be enthusiasm on steroids.

In our reading from the book of Acts we heard the dramatic story of the Holy Spirit descending like fire on the beleaguered and confused disciples at the great Jewish harvest festival of Pentecost, giving them a fresh confidence in the new understanding of faith which was just dawning on them. But that is not the definitive expression of the Holy Spirit we find in the Bible. Always behind the concept of Holy Spirit is the word for breath. In the opening of Genesis, it is the breath or Spirit of God that moves over the waters as creation is manifested. Life in the Hebrew Scriptures is everything that breathes. Elsewhere than in Genesis it is the force that inspires prophets, like Isaiah, and leaders, like King David. And for the prophet Ezekiel it was used specifically in the context of what we would now call profound religious or mystical experience. He found himself in heaven – in God’s presence – with the Holy Spirit as his guide. In St Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia it is the spirit/breath which guides the believer into the ways of love, generosity, patience and faith and so on.

But this morning I want to home in on St John’s Gospel and explore two ideas which I have found helpful and which lead back to where I started, with us literally conspiring together and being inspired together.

In St John’s Gospel just now we heard an example of Jesus getting exasperated with a disciple. In this case it is Philip’s turn. Just to recall the situation: this is yet another scene that St John sets at the Last Supper, where Jesus washes the disciples feet, underlines the primacy of the commandment to love, and tells them that he is the way, the truth and the life and much else. St John’s message is that to see Jesus, to meet Jesus, and to be in his presence is to meet God and see what he is like.

In the middle of all this, Philip blurts out:
‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’
Jesus’ reply could be rendered:
What do you think I’ve been doing?

But there is more to be said than this.

Someone suggested to me recently that one of the big mistakes we can make about the Holy Spirit is thinking that it is an extra – the grand finale of Christian revelation, if you like!

In this passage one truth being expressed is that God in his entirety is to be found in the life and being of Jesus himself. He is not keeping anything back. It is almost as if Philip is expecting Jesus to unmask himself like the villain in the old Scooby-Doo cartoons, or empty out his pockets to show he has held nothing back.

Another insight being shared in this Gospel reading is about us as Christian believers. It is how we breathe in Christ that matters. Not what we believe about him, but the trust we put in him and the inspiration we find in him. Our love for him shapes our attitude to life, and our loving of the world and other people comes out of his life in us. That odd phraseology about Christ abiding in us and us abiding in Christ is like holding the same vision and sharing the same breath – conspiring together.

I have realized that this might seem like a maze of words. Trying to pick apart St John has this effect, because he piles images and ideas one on top of another, rather than putting forward an argument.

It’s like this, and this and maybe this.

And then at last we come across mention of the Holy Spirit and find where St John describes it – or her; in Hebrew and Greek the breath or spirit is always feminine – in terms not found anywhere else in the Bible: as an advocate. Sometimes the word he uses is translated as ‘counsellor’. It is undoubtedly a term borrowed from the law courts. God on our side, by our side, at the most important moments, as close as our own breath. Reminding us that, like all people, we have a precious and sacred life, God breathed.

When we pray together, sing together, worship together, we are part of a good conspiracy, inspired by the God who showed us who he is and shared our life through his Son Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Easter Sermon 2022: Luke 24.1-12 from Rev’d Ian Tattum

Easter and Spring are closely aligned every year, temporally and in our imaginations. This year Easter is quite late, so all the signs of new life around us are quite advanced. Many of the trees are in leaf – even the veteran oaks, which cautiously have a lie-in, in case of a late frost, are beginning to wake up.  The bird-song is intensifying, and the first butterflies are emerging. I saw my first holly blue in the church garden last week.

But if you look on the way home, you will notice that the hawthorn hedge is already in flower, anticipating the month May that gave it its other familiar name – a little hint that, although our world renews itself every year, it is not quite right; and we know what is wrong. The joy and relief of warmer days now comes always with an undercurrent of unease.

Ukraine, fuel poverty, and the increasing need for foodbanks all add to a sense of foreboding. Plus are own struggles with life, often endured privately and largely unspoken, prevent us celebrating Christ’s Resurrection on Easter morning as a once-for-all happy ending.

Poetically, Easter often has been seen as a reversal of the story of the Fall: Humanity restored to the garden of Eden it was once expelled from. But we know that the wilderness is all around us and within us.

Today we heard St Luke’s account of Easter morning, which is rarely read in church because it gets elbowed aside by St John’s version, with its gripping story of the weeping Mary Magdalene meeting the risen Christ in the garden. Mary Magdalene is in Luke’s version too, but she comes to bring spices to his tomb along with other faithful women who have followed Jesus all the way from Galilee. They find the tomb empty and report that to the disbelieving male disciples. Although they don’t quite find it tomb empty. There are angels there.

In Luke there often are angels.

We are so used to hearing all the stories from St Luke at Christmas, and only hearing John’s side of it at Easter, that we miss his full circle of spiritual revelation. Luke’s gospel is only part one of his history of the birth of Christianity; the Book of Acts is part two, and all the way through both he emphasises how God progressively reveals himself to the world in Christ. From obscure child in Bethlehem, announced by angels to shepherds, to universally present Saviour.

As St Peter, in this morning’s passage from the Book of Acts puts it, after the conversion of the centurion, Cornelius.  In my translation:

‘In truth , I see that God is not biased when it comes to people. Rather, in every people, whoever reveres him and performs righteous acts is accepted by him.’

All the Gospel writers knew that the world did not revert to a paradise on Easter morning, just as we know that winter always returns. Think of all those warnings of persecution for the first disciples as they try to spread their misunderstood good news to a world.

But there had been a radical change – a more subtle one. The one who taught and healed, and was innocent and yet had been crucified, had been raised by God. New life from a place of seeming death and defeat; new hope that could be met with in prayer and other people.

One of the comforts and inspirations that Easter brings to a troubled world is that however oppressed and crushed people might be, they too can rise.

The writer and poet Maya Angelou was a devout Christian, and in the face of racial and sexual violence she grounded her hope in the Easter story. Christ’s suffering and victory is hers too.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter twisted lies,
You may trod me in the dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into the daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise.

Hall Bookings

Our halls are open for hire.

We are delighted to be welcoming back regular group activities, both for children and for adults.

As of April 23, 2022, we will have limited availability for party hire.  For the time being, we are prioritizing users who live in the parish of St Barnabas or are church members, as we want to support our local community as we come out of Covid restrictions.  Click here for details.

We run the halls as part of our commitment to the community.  Although they raise revenue for us, they are not profit making, so we ask all hirers to respect them and look after them so that they can be enjoyed by local residents for many years to come.

NB: all hall names are merely working titles, and all prices are open to revision!

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