Many people have contacted me to thank David and Rachel Butterworth from Breckles Hall for the wonderful cakes etc. they have given to people. Many thought that it was a gift from Fortnum and Masons!
We will await directions regarding the re-opening of churches, and I will let you know as soon as possible. The Government has suggested this may be possible at the beginning of July.
A Homily – Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday to you all! Today is Pentecost (Whitsunday) when we remember the beginning of the church and the beginning of its activity as the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. So today is really our birthday.
With the news that the new Archbishop of York is going to chair a committee looking at streamlining the church, maybe moth-balling some churches, amalgamating Deaneries and Dioceses and culling clergy including bishops, it does not look as if the prospects of the church are that exciting. There is no doubt in my mind that the church along with many national institutions in our country are living well beyond their means and the virus outbreak has just brought these discussions forward. But don’t worry the church does not move quickly and I shall probably be the ’the late Adrian Bell’, before anything is decided!
But today let us put all that aside and remember that wonderful Pentecost day so beautifully recorded by St Luke in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. After the days since the Ascension, when the twelve seem to hold their breath in anticipation, the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church springs into action. Peter explains the significance of the event to a large crowd of people from across the world as the Holy Spirit is poured upon the church.
You may think that the Holy Spirit does not exist now – you would be wrong. Many years ago, at the age of 18, I attended a schoolboy conference at Oxford University organised by the Anglican Church for those who might be interested in being ordained. Please note it was not to see Chief Inspector Morse in action – he began filming in 1975, but whilst there I did visit the Bodleian Library which is totally amazing. To cut a long story short whilst I was there in the library, I had a religious experience which has stayed with me all my life. I realised that I wanted to be ordained and so set off to see the Director of Ordinands at the conference and booked a place at a 2 day clergy selection board. So began my career in the church which has had its ups and downs, but I have never forgotten the realisation that the Holy Spirit guided me to be a priest. I wonder how many people reading this homily have had a religious experience – it is far more common than it appears because people generally don’t talk about them.
The Holy Spirit is alive today as much as it was with the early disciples in a room together when the violent wind came. Those who know New Testament Greek and Hebrew will know that the words ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ have the same meaning. Then we have tongues of fire showing all the many languages that are in the world which were spoken by the disciples as they poured out into the streets around the upper room and shocked the many people who would be in Jerusalem for this festival.
So, this great day began the church, but the disciples soon to be Apostles, would always remember this day because not only were they empowered with the Holy Spirit but also given gifts, and these gifts are so evident in the early church, but also in the days we live. During the epidemic you realise, as you look around the Wayland Group, the amazing gifts that people have and use in their daily lives to bring joy and encouragement to others. Our weekly Zoom meeting with the choir is just typical of the care that is going on in the Group of Parishes. Often it is easy to look around you and see the gifts of others, but I do believe that Pentecost is time to remember that God gives us all gifts whether we realise them or not.
For me the lock-down which is now easing has taught me to value the small things in life and be thankful for every day. That we have actually coped not driving to Norwich, Kings Lynn or Thetford, spending a long time driving there, finding somewhere to park, buying things that we will never wear or use and come home wondering why we went in the first place – is amazing. I am sure that this lock-down will teach me to value friends and family and see the priorities in life.
No event in our lives leaves us the same afterwards. I have never ever been back to the Bodleian library and I will never want to go back because that memory of shaking and tingling all over as the library staff came around me to ask if I was alright, and realising that our Lord actually wanted me to help him, has never left me. I am sure that many people will have all sorts of feelings during this lock-down, some I am no doubt will be part of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit.