Friday, 25 October 2019

Pastoral letter - friendship during times of political contention

Dear friends,

I write as your parish priest, pastor...and friend.

I write in the week in which we may, finally, as a nation, see the United Kingdom leave the European Union; or not; or plan for a UK General Election....times of great political contention.  These have been our times, these last few years...

I write in the light of these particular times, but also in the light of the eternal gospel, the good news of God's love shown in Jesus Christ, and the victory over all evil won through His life, death and resurrection...

Friendship is the radical Christian witness our politics needs.

One possible area of unanimity to be found over Brexit is simply that it is a mess. I do not believe that anyone can be happy with where we find ourselves. How can the church most help? How can the church best model a different way of engaging, both with the issue of Brexit and with each other across the divides, in such a way that we are a faithful and healing witness to the nation?

I would say: friendship.

Jesus famously calls us friends, and I believe that there is something holy in the nature of Christian friendship which we are being called specifically to model at this time. A very good part of the recent letter from the Bishops of the Oxford Diocese stated: "There are leavers and remainers in every congregation, but this can never be our primary identity as Christians."

Which is to say that there are values and aims which Christians hold that transcend any particular political claims. Christians share with each other not simply doctrinal claims, such as "Jesus is Lord", but also an awareness that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that progress in human affairs is ultimately and wholly dependent on the grace of God.

These shared values are then embodied in particular virtues - and it is those virtues which (as the Church has classically understood, following Aristotle) enable a genuine friendship to take hold. The virtues that we need today include hospitality to alternative points of view, humility in a shared search for the truth that we insist it is possible to find, patience in recognising how long this process may take - and over all these we must put on love, to bind them together.

Why, though, do we in the church find it so challenging to model such virtues? How is that we find it so difficult to be distinctive salt and light in this time of worldly tumult?

To act in a gracious way, turning the other cheek to those who seem to hurt us and trample over things that we hold precious, requires us to draw on spiritual reserves. To model a different pattern of life, the way of the Spirit rather than the way of the enemy, requires sustained practice. It is not something that comes easy to our flesh, which clings so hard to the ease of worldliness. It is always easier to say 'I thank you Lord that I am not like this sinner'* than to say 'I repent in dust and ashes'.
Might it be that we in the church struggle to demonstrate a distinctive witness of friendship across the Leave/Remain divide because we have fallen out of the practice of friendship within our own church life? We have spent many decades arguing with each other over matters of church order and sexuality, and that has come at a cost. We have not always enabled 'good disagreement' and have instead allowed the fruits of bitterness, strife and resentment to plant seeds. Have we used up all our spiritual reserves in internal dispute, leaving us incapable of withstanding worldly pressures when it comes to engaging with critical political issues like Brexit?

Our most important task, now as always, is to immerse ourselves in prayer, seeking the still small voice amidst the earthquake, wind and fire of Brexit. Such prayer would have the effect of loosening the hold that our opinions have upon us, as we remember and laugh at our own frailties. With humility, and forgiveness for others as well as for ourselves, we might be in a better position to see the truth of where we are, and thus the way to where God wishes us to be.

It will also enable us to be better friends.

I am fond of Stanley Hauerwas' 'Modest Proposal for Peace': let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other. In the same spirit, I suggest that we Christians agree that we will remain friends with those on the other side of political debate. We will seek the image of Christ in the face of our opponents; we will resolve to disagree gracefully, affirming that what we share is greater than what divides; we will repudiate a spirit of accusation in favour of a shared and humble recognition of mutual sinfulness. Above all, we will cling to an insistence that there is a truth here to be found, a truth which will set us free from this mess in which we have become embedded.

In doing so, I believe that we will be witnessing to our nation and our world that there is a better way for all human beings to follow. We will do justice to our faith, and to each other.

Let's be friends.

Go well,

Fr Paul

*I note that this line/attitude appears in the gospel reading set for the Eucharist, this week (Sunday 27 October, the Last Sunday after Trinity).  So, you may consider this letter, in part, as an extra sermon for the week ahead, too!


PS I am grateful, for much of this letter's inspiration, to Fr Sam Norton, a dear friend to me, over many years....

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus - a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 15-23 February 2020

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus - a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 15-23 February 2020


 We are delighted to be able to be part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in February 2020.  The pilgrimage will be led by our own Vicar, Fr Paul Trathen, and by another experienced parish priest.

First come, first served!  Do please be in touch with the Vicar, or the Parish Office, as soon as you are able, if you wish to learn more and consider being part of this exciting opportunity...


Click on the link, above, to view the full brochure details...

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Annual Report & Accounts for St Peter-in-the-Forest (2018)

Dear friends, near and far,

2018 was a remarkable year in the life of our parish - so many blessings, and just a few challenges!

Our Annual Report & Accounts is now published, ahead of our Annual Parochial Church Council (APCM), which takes place on Sunday 28 April 2019, 12.00pm, in the Hall at our Peterhouse Church & Community Centre.

You can read the Annual Report, here...

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Radical Childhoods in Waltham Forest


To celebrate Waltham Forest, First London Borough of Culture, 2019
the Waltham Forest History Network invite you to
         Radical Childhoods in Waltham Forest
           at St Peter’s Church in the Forest, London E17
                                            on
                         Saturday April 6th, 2019
                                                             Draft Programme
2. p.m Radical Childhoods in Waltham Forest, c 1600-1900”
Dr Mary Clare Martin (University of Greenwich, L &LHS)
3.00 p.m. “Finding your family history through parish registers”
Barrie Burton (Walthamstow Family History Society)

3.20 Activity slot . Choice of the following:
Barrie Burton will be available with his database of St Peter’s parish registers to help anyone interested track their family history
David Boote (Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society, Chingford Historical Society) will lead a walk entitled “Children and young people round and about St Peter’s and Forest School”
Churchyard tour with Mark Carroll and Tim Valder-Hogg (Walthamstow Family History Society)

 4.15 “Growing up in Waltham Forest in the 1930s”
Mark Carroll (Walthamstow Family History Society)
5 p.m. Close
There will be opportunities to sing protest songs throughout the afternoon, led by guitarist and campaigner Louis Martin (Divest Newham) 
                                          Children are welcome and activities will be provided
                                                   Tea and cake will be available throughout
                         For further details, see Waltham Forest History Network website

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Ash Wednesday and Lent 2019




 

Lent begins today. 

Our Parish Mass with the Examination of Conscience & Imposition of Ashes is being held at St Peter's at both 6.30pm and again at 8.00pm, this evening.  All welcome.Lent begins today.  

Sunday, 13 January 2019

The Baptism of Christ

We renewed our Baptismal vows this morning, as we celebrated the Baptism of Christ.
The Vicar’s sermon can be listened to again, here.