Rector's Letter for July


This month marks the start of Sheila Beattie’s Ordination to the Diaconate. I know many of you have known Sheila for many years, have seen her ministering as a Lay Assistant at the 10.00am Eucharist and will have had conversations with her. You may have caught her preaching, leading intercessions or even leading Evening Prayer. Now, after a longish period of discernment and training, Sheila is to be ordained Deacon in Manchester Cathedral on 1st July.

What does this mean? It will mean different things to different people. Sheila will still be Sheila. Yes, she will be permitted to wear a dog collar (always a useful visual aid, I find). Yes, she will have a more active role in worship (wearing more ecclesiastical garb than before). Yes, she will have to step up more regularly to the preaching rota. But is that all?

The ministry of Deacon picks up the ministry that St Luke refers to in Acts 6. In the early church, they discovered that there was much to do, too much, in fact, so the leaders of the Church set aside some people to evolve ministry precisely in those areas where the church was falling short. Having decided on the parameters of that ministry, they discerned whom God was calling and, after praying for them and laying hands on them, set them to their task. This is precisely echoed in Sheila’s case. Bury Parish noted that its pastoral care of older people needed beefing up and the Church saw in Sheila the person whom God was calling to fulfil that ministry. Responding to the call of the Lord is a humbling thing and this month we pray fervently for Sheila that she (and all called to the ministry of Deacon) may find joy in their vocation.

Sheila will be ordained on a Sunday and in one of the smaller cathedrals in the country. She will be welcomed, in a joint service of St Mary’s and St Paul’s, on 8th July at 10.30am. Please note the time! After this service there will be a Jacob’s lunch (or bring and share as I think of it). Essentially we ask you to do two things on 8th July. The first thing is to stay for the meal. I know many of you tend to hurry on after Sunday service. I would like to encourage you, on this special day in the parish, to stay and to eat and drink with us. There will be free tickets available at the back of Church to help us work out how many plates and cups we need but if you don’t manage to get one, still please stay! The other thing, a bit more prosaic, is to encourage you to bring food. There will be a sheet to sign up at the back of church, to indicate whether you are bringing savoury or sweet food, but again that is secondary to just bringing something to share.

The PCC decided that, during July and August, we will trial having the same readings at the services of Holy Communion at 8.00am and 10.00am and at the 11.00am on Wednesday. The services (Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship) will remain the same; it’s just the readings that will change. Currently, if you only hear the Prayer Book Epistle and Gospel, you hear just 104 readings from the scriptures if you attend every service across the year and of these, only two are from the Old Testament. The newish system of readings (first published in 1994 - so 24 years old, not that new) offers the Christian Church over 600 passages over a three year cycle. It is a system used by the Anglicans world-wide, Methodists, Baptists, URCs and essentially by the Roman Catholics. Recent research has discovered that far too many Christians simply don’t open their bibles at home, have no sense of how the Jesus story and the Old Testament connect and look rather blank when asked about the scriptures. The report said, rather grimly, that too many Christians were biblically illiterate. And this report was written by Christians! Church worship should foster a hunger for the scriptures as a source of our nourishment from God. This trial is to see how we react to hearing parts of the bible with which we may not be but should be familiar.

At the end of the trial, we will invite response. We will automatically go back to the usual source of readings until the Worship Committee have reflected on your response. The PCC hope that, whatever the outcome, we recognise the need in each of us, to grow in confidence in the faith and in knowledge of our tradition, of which reading and praying the scriptures is a vital and life-giving element.

And finally, here’s a thing. I find myself visiting empty houses. Which is a poor use of time and a poor stewardship of the earth’s scarce resources. I wonder whether I can ask you, if you would like a visit (and this can be for any reason you like) to take the initiative and invite me round? I don’t need feeding (actually I am trying to avoid biscuits/cake so it’s not personal!). But I would love to listen. If you’d like to talk, catch me at church or phone/email me. I so look forward to hearing from you.

With love and prayers,