All posts by Lesley Crawley

Lesley is a priest in the Guildford Diocese

Lesley Shatwell’s Inclusive Church Sermon

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was a church.  A nice, pretty church, St Exaltus The Great in the nice pretty village of Higher Exclusive.  Look, the parishioners are gathering for their Sunday morning service.  The surrounding lanes are chock-a-block as every neat and nice family wants to show off their expensive car on a Sunday morning.

But what’s this?  How unpleasant!  What a dreadful sight!  They have to walk past a beggar (with his dirty dog on an old piece of string) who is sitting in the church gateway.  How dare he, the cheek of it.  “Don’t worry,” reassures Mr We’ll-have-none-of-that, the churchwarden, “I’ve called the police – they will move him along.”

Inside St Exaltus The Great, everyone is singing sweetly, “All things bright and beautiful … The rich man in his castle the poor man at the gate, God made them high and lowly, each one to their estate …”

But what’s this commotion at the door?  Who’s that trying to get in?  She’s upsetting Mrs Keep-that-child-quiet and Mrs Don’t-sit-there of the Welcoming Committee – well there’s a turn up for the books!  A big black woman trying to get into St Exaltus The Great!  Here in Higher Exclusive!  We don’t see those sort of people in this village.  Some of the stronger men step forward, we can’t have her disrupting our service, she’s got rainbow coloured hair, for goodness sake!

“Let me in!  I know I am a sinner but I want to praise God for making me as I am, I want to come to God, I am a child of God!”

“She’s as mad as a hatter!  Got no business upsetting The Welcoming Committee.  Look at her in that shoddy, flimsy dress – she looks like a street-walker.”

“Wait a minute …” Mrs Nosey-parker is looking more carefully at the woman, “ … I know that one.  You’d never guess that her real name is STANLEY!  Yes, she was a boy when she was born.”

That’s too much for Gloria as she is now, not Stanley any more.  She runs from the church in tears.

“Now vicar, where were we … oh I know, let’s share the peace.”

 

The next week, all the lanes are blocked with the posh cars, there’s no beggar in the gate and no sign of the dog, just a uniformed local bobby greeting the parishioners as they arrive.  All seems well.  But there is a stranger in church.  A smartly dressed, elderly woman sitting quietly praying near the back of the church.  Mrs Get-everyone-on-the-rota has already spotted her:  she looks like she might be good at flower arranging.  The choir sings and the vicar walks in, “Good morning and welcome one and all!”

“There was no welcome for my son last week was there.”  What’s this?  The smartly dressed old lady is walking down the aisle toward the vicar.  She turns at the chancel step to face the congregation.  “Yes, my son who was sitting with his dog at the church gate.  You all pushed past him.”

“Come on, sit down now, don’t cause a scene, we want to get on with the service, we’ll talk about it afterwards …”

But the old lady was having none of it.  “What about my daughter Gloria?  You were very cruel to her.  How do you think she felt?”

The people looked at the little old lady, clean, neat and white – how could she be the mother of the tramp at the gate and the woman who was born a man and black?  Mrs Don’t -sit-there was already regretting that she had given the woman a hymn book.  The vicar stepped forward, he knew his scripture, “’Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?’  Jeremiah 7:9-10”

 

The woman smiled, “Who are the ones needing our Lord’s forgiveness and mercy?  Do you remember in our reading today when the woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter and she will not take no for the final answer?  I have come to your church today to remind you that all are welcome in God’s house … even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.  And we are all human beings: ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’  Just because these people are not like you, they think differently, they dress differently, they have less money than you, they may do outrageous things and scare you … are they any less the children of our same heavenly father?”

 

Let’s close the window onto St Exaltus The Great and come back to St Mark’s here today.

 

I would be ashamed to call myself Christian if I went to a church like St Exaltus The Great.  This is God’s house and we are only passing through.  Everyone is passing through and everyone is equally as entitled to be here as we are.  We are the current custodians of our church in this community and we have the God-given task to extend God’s welcome to all.

I love St Mark’s precisely because we don’t have The Welcoming Committee of Mrs Don’t-sit-there and Mrs Keep-that-child-quiet.

 

Finally, let me remind you of the words we speak at each baptism:  “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism: by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.  We welcome you into the fellowship of faith; we are children of the same heavenly Father; we welcome you.”

And let us pray that all find welcome in our church today and always.

Letter to the Romans

A Study Group is offered by John Innes on the Letter of Paul to the Romans. No prior knowledge is assumed; but some of you may have heard sections of the letter read on Sundays. The suggestion is to have a series of three, then a gap and if another topic is welcomed than another series of three. If anyone is interested, please let me know which dates would be possible. Ring John on 01252-734597. Possible dates: Sept 5, 12, 19 or 6,13, 20 or 7, 14, 21.

John Innes

Continue reading Letter to the Romans

Safeguarding

Most people will be aware of the safeguarding problems that the national church has had.  To help address this, and to help ensure that children and vulnerable adults are kept safe the national church has created new safeguarding procedures, which the Diocese and the Parish have adopted.  The Parish is now in the process of implementing these new procedures.

As a result of this we will be:

  • Drawing up a list of all church activities, together with leaders and assistants.
  • Circulating a “know your safeguarding role” to all people working with children or vulnerable adults.
  • Asking all people working with children or vulnerable adults to sign the new confidential declaration form.
  • Implementing the “Safe Recruitment” procedures for people taking on new roles.
  • Creating risk assessments for all church activities.
  • Working with regular hall bookers to ensure that they have adequate safeguarding procedures and public liability insurance.

It will take us some time to do this, but we have no choice, both because this is best practice, and because we wish to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults using our services (in the wider sense) or our buildings.

Alan Crawley

Your church needs you(r money)

It would be nice to think that the practice of religion could be conducted without having to worry about such secular items as paying bills and general self-sufficiency. However, unless you’re going to go out in the desert, climb up a pole and generally shun society to conduct your devotions, this is unlikely to be the case.
Basically any church, regardless of denomination requires the congregation to contribute to its upkeep. The Church of England, even though it is the established church with the monarch as its head, is no different in this regard. We get no contribution from the diocese, from central government or the extensive royal estates.
The parish budget is divided roughly into two areas: the general fund, which deals with the day to day running expenses, including salaries; and the restricted funds which are reserved for specific purposes, e.g. building repairs or outreach. It all comes ultimately from the contributions of parishioners.

You may have heard people talking about “the Parish Share”. This is the major outgoing part of the general fund (about 65%). It goes to the diocese. Most of it comes back in the form of salaries of clergy and their housing. A smaller part is associated with such things as training and diocese administration. The ability to pay the parish share is regarded as an indication of the viability of the parish. We’ve managed for the last three years. It’s going to be a challenge this year.

This year, the budget predictions indicate a general fund expenditure of £104,000 and an income of £84,000, a shortfall of £20,000. We also have a problem with the special funds, particularly the part associated with building maintenance. We’re almost out of money here, after carrying out necessary repairs and modifications to each church.

On a personal note, when I was studying the figures in order to give a presentation on this problem to the churches recently, I looked at my own monetary contribution. I thought it was quite substantial. However, I then figured out how much I spent per week on coffee in various establishments and car parking charges in Farnham and Guildford etc. The amount I give to the church is comparable, or possibly slightly less, than these numbers. I think the parish is arguably more deserving, and certainly has a greater need of my money, than Starbucks!

You will be able to make similar comparisons based on your own lifestyles.

The most effective way to give is via the parish giving scheme. This is a direct debit system. If you are a taxpayer you have the option of donating gift aid. You can also choose to index link your contribution. If you don’t pay tax, we can claim tax relief on the amount collected in the collection plates, so you may want to consider this option. We would prefer to phase out the old collection envelope scheme, as it costs a lot in both time and money to administer, and technology has moved on since this was regarded as the clever way to contribute.

So, come on everybody. If we look at the numbers attending the church, we are a growing parish. However, the income isn’t reflecting this. I’m afraid the days of putting loose change in the collection plate are long past. I’m significantly increasing my direct debit, or, as Alan Crawley neatly, and delightfully ambiguously, summarised when I gave my presentation to St Mark’s,

“I’m upping mine, up yours (!)”

Bob Shatwell

Young Preacher of the Year competition launched

The Diocese of Guildford has launched its first ever preaching competition for young people. Open to any young preachers with a connection to the diocese, the competition aims to encourage young people to give preaching a try, and to find creative ways in which we can hear the voices of young people.

The sponsor of the project, Bishop Jo Wells, the Bishop of Dorking, said: “I am delighted to launch ‘Young Preacher of the Year’ across the Diocese. It provides an opportunity for any young person aged 14 to 18 to have a go at preaching, and for others to discover budding preachers in their midst.

“Giving young people a voice and a very public platform is vital if we are to be ‘transforming church, and transform lives’ as we proclaim in our vision.  If you are aged 14 to 18 and think this might be for you, we’d love you to enter. All are welcome to enter regardless of experience or qualification.”

The prize for the competition includes both a trophy and the opportunity to preach from the highest pulpit in the area (well above sea level anyway) – the one in Guildford Cathedral.

Entrants must be in school years 10-13 in September 2017 (aged 14-18). Entry is simple – just record yourself preaching for 3-4 minutes on your mobile phone and complete the short entry form on the competition website. More information here www.youngpreacheroftheyear.co.uk

Closing date for entries is 5th November 2017. For a poster to display in your church or school see www.youngpreacheroftheyear.co.uk/poster

To find out more about the Young Preacher of the Year competition, contact organiser David Welch, Diocesan Youth Adviser, by email to david.welch@cofeguildford.org.uk

Inclusive Church

The Parish is considering signing up to Inclusive Church, an organisation which encourages churches to look at who might not be coming into church because for some reason they feel it isn’t for them or they cannot do so. The reasons may be many and varied – perhaps it is an economic issue, culture, race, disability, a mental health issue, sexuality. Inclusive Church encourages churches think about these reasons and can help churches be truly welcoming.

Many churches and individuals have joined Inclusive Church and they are united around the following statement of belief:

“We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”

On July 23, the Very Rev’d Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford Cathedral and chair of Inclusive Church, visited St Mark’s and spoke about joining Inclusive Church and it was decided that during August the clergy will preach on different aspects of inclusion and then the PCC will vote on the parish joining.

Stella Wiseman

What’s a Prayer Co-ordinator?

Hello, I’m your Parish Prayer Co-ordinator. Now, I bet you didn’t know we have a Prayer Co-ordinator and perhaps you are wondering what I have been doing all this time. Prayer underpins our lives and the life of our parish. It is the way we communicate with God and it is often an individual matter between you and God. It is certainly NOT the role of Prayer Co-ordinator to interfere in any way with your personal prayer with God.

We have run sessions introducing new ideas to reinvigorate your prayer-life and this is something we could develop. You may have seen pop-up displays in church with photos, artefacts and thought-provoking quotations. Or perhaps you have missed them … they are designed to be a momentary, fresh display to inspire prayer and help you to ponder theological questions during the week. There will be more. They are part of my role: I am passionate about finding ways to get people creatively thinking about prayer.

My latest target in the parish is the Prayer Boards we have in St George’s and St John’s. The aim is to take the prayers made via these boards and present them during the Sunday service. They will be brought to the altar and blessed at the same time as the collection (not read out loud). From there, they will be delivered to me as Prayer Co-ordinator and I will ensure that they are prayed from Thursday till the following Thursday. I believe this scheme will ensure that people’s prayers are prayed and honoured both on the Sunday at the main service and during the following week.
Obviously, if there is a particular pastoral issue, I will relay that to the ministry team. We will be trialling this scheme for three months, starting on 1 October.

If you have any ideas or concerns about this scheme, or the prayer-life of our parish generally, please let me know.

Lesley Shatwell (LLM)
llm.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org

Wendy’s sermon on Inclusive Church

SERMON -ST. JOHN’S – Sunday 6th August 2017- preaching on Inclusive Church (on sexuality)
Isaiah 55.1-5, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14.13-21
May I speak in the name of the living God who is and was and is to come? Amen.
In December 1990, aged 33, I attended a Christmas dinner dance with my husband, Steve. I was happy with the new dress I wore. That Saturday night I felt especially feminine. I felt very much part of the fun and conviviality of this special dinner.
Steve’s company had paid for an artist to do ink drawings of us all. His drawings were in cartoon style. The picture he drew of me showed my nose, mouth and chin much larger than they really are but he captured my smile and character.

The cartoon artist exaggerated certain aspects about my physical appearance but minimized others so that my shoulders appeared much smaller than they should have been for the size of my head. This was so he could fit my shoulders into the picture.
I now ask you to fit yourself into the picture which Saint Matthew draws for us of the Feeding of the 5,000. Transport yourself back almost 2,000 years. Where in the crowd do you think you’d be sitting? Who might you be with?

Imagine yourself sitting on the grass with all sorts of different people, Jewish and non- Jewish. Traders, merchants, stonecutters, masons, sculptors, craftsmen and fishermen, weavers, stone carriers, non-Jewish slaves, men and women, children, lepers (standing a little apart from the others), the blind, mentally ill and disabled people. What a wonderful mix of humanity.

It had been an incredible day when hundreds of people had been healed but now very ordinary needs were requiring attention. Everyone was hungry and the nearest village was a long way away.

In a matter of fact way, Jesus took the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, looked up to heaven, gave thanks, broke the food and gave it to the disciples and then they gave it to the crowd. We are assured that all not only ate but all were filled and there were 12 baskets of left- overs. God more than supplied their need.

Most scholars believe that more than 5,000 people were fed but only the men were counted. Women and children had a low status in the society of the time but Jesus includes them in this miraculous dinner. I wonder who else might have been included? Might there have been some people with a different sexuality in that crowd? I think it is possible.

I read recently that approximately 1 in every 1,500 births are of people with dual sexual characteristics and some people are of indeterminate sex. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to be one of those people? They cannot even tick the male or female box on a form.

I would suggest that in such a large crowd that evening you would have found some lesbian and gay people and possibly some people whose sex was uncertain, in addition to the heterosexual men, women and children. All ate and were filled. Jesus left no-one out.

You may wonder why I am speculating like this. It is because the PCC has recently debated whether we should join Inclusive Church. A decision has not yet been made but Lesley and Alan have asked those who preach to preach about inclusivity as a way of seeking the opinion of the congregation. We have not been told what to preach. As individual preachers, with our own opinions and life experiences, we pray, as always, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in what we preach, also in how the congregation hears and receives what we say.

The statement of belief of Inclusive Church is as follows :-
‘We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.’

Each of us is preaching on a subject of interest to us. I chose sexuality because it is the one which often causes the biggest difference of opinion. For the record, I am a heterosexual woman married to a heterosexual man but Steve and I have had homosexual friends of both sexes, some of whom have died of AIDS. I have one friend whose daughter had a sex change operation to become a man.

Now some of you may have particularly heard those words ‘scripturally faithful’ in that statement of belief. Perhaps you thought of the Old Testament book of Leviticus 18.22, warning that a man should be put to death for having sex with another man. However, I would risk a bet that no-one today avoids wearing clothes of mixed fibres which is a grave offence according to Leviticus 19.19. We must ask ourselves whether these ancient prohibitions, set at a very different time in history and culture, have relevance today. Some do but many do not. If we applied them all, how would they hamper outreach and mission?

Back to the Gospel reading. Remember the first sentence of the Gospel reading today. ‘Now when Jesus heard this he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.’ The word ‘this’ refers to the death of John the Baptist. The crowd, desperate for healing, did not even allow Jesus time to grieve. Perhaps keeping busy was what he needed and boy, did he keep busy!

Somehow John’s death is a catalyst giving a 1,000-volt injection to Jesus’ ministry in this miracle which, for me, sends out the biggest example of his new commandment to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (in the thankful lifting, blessing, breaking and massive distribution of miraculously increased quantities of food) and to love your neighbour as yourself (in the feeding of all present, regardless of who they were). There is no other commandment greater than these.

Our Old Testament reading today also speaks to me of inclusivity. Isaiah, sounding like a market trader shouting out a bargain ‘Come all you who are thirsty… you will delight in the richest of fare’.

Should we deny people who are different to us the rich fare we receive here at the Holy Table and the benefits our faith gives us? Have we given a thought to the rich fare which these new people might bring to us and to this church?

Our Romans reading chimes with me also. It gives me sorrow and anguish when we cut off from Christ any human being who seeks him.

If it is decided that we will join Inclusive Church, it is very unlikely that we will have a rush of new people arriving but I would hope that, if we join, when we receive Holy Communion, we will be happy to have a transvestite man wearing a new dress in which he feels feminine, kneeling beside us at the altar rail, happy to share a coffee and fellowship with any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex human being who may bless us by choosing to worship with us.

At that 1990 dinner dance the cartoon artist exaggerated parts of my face.

In the church in 2017, I believe we need to try hard not to exaggerate the sexual lives of people whose sexuality is different to ours. It is just one part of their lives as it is of ours and maybe not such a significant part. It is all too easy to focus exclusively on others’ sexuality as if there was nothing else to them at all. They are children of God like us with gifts and talents, hopes and dreams, joys and fears.

Jesus said of the loaves and fishes, ‘Bring them here to me’. I say, of those with a different sexuality, ‘Bring them here to us that they may eat and be filled’. Amen.

Arts and Music festival at St Mark’s 20 – 22nd Oct. 2017

Is this what they call divine inspiration, or is it just a form of madness? Anyway, I blame Dave Walker. It’s not as if we need things to occupy our time. However, the odd comment from Dave on how suitable St Mark’s would be for an art exhibition suddenly set wheels turning in Lesley’s and my fevered brains:-

“Let’s have an Arts and Music festival!”

After checking who would be available for such an event, we settled on Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd October.

We’re still working out the details. So far we’ve only had one meeting (actually over a rather convivial dinner) to discuss the general outline. However, it’s been quite encouraging how many people have been in favour of the concept and offered suggestions.

The main ideas to date are:-

Friday Night (probably 7 – 9:30 or 10-ish). A concert. We’re still sorting out the acts, but we’ll have a couple of pieces on Emily (the pipe organ), a rock band, a rock-a-billy/country band, a choral group and probably others. There will also be an artistic display, or displays, we’ll set up on the Friday afternoon.

Saturday daytime Various workshops of artistic and musical nature. We’ve had several possible offers, including stone cutting and a recording studio. We’ll definitely have various painting, singing and instrumental workshops. More details to follow.

Saturday evening (probably 7 – 10-ish) a Ceilidh. We’ll clear one side of the church for dancing and have tables in the other half. The idea is to have a mixture of dancing and other events, hopefully some stemming from the workshops that took place during the day. There will be quite an early finish, as we’ll have to get the church ready for the service the following morning. We’ll possibly have a bar, but it will be bring your own food, as this is an extra complication I’m not sure any of us could face!

Sunday morning This will be a service. Lesley (S) will lead it. As she is an LLM, it will be a service of the word, rather than a communion service. There’s going to be a lot of singing, of the “Amazing Grace”, and “Go tell it on the mountain” type of song/hymn.

By the end of this, we’ll probably be dead on our feet, but there’s been the suggestion of a bring and share lunch at St Mark’s. This would seem to be a fitting way to end up. (Just prop Lesley and myself up in a corner and carry on!)

General funding would be by asking for donations and having collection plates, rather than charging entry to events. We’d like to make it as accessible as possible. Any profits will go to the General Parish funds (they need all the help they can get) and the Emily restoration fund.

So watch this space, details to follow in as many ways we can think of to publicise the event. If you’ve any good ideas and/or would like to help, please contact us.

Bob and Lesley Shatwell