We are pleased to present the Order of Service for the Licensing of Alison & Nicki, which you can find here as a downloadable & printable PDF and, set out below, Bishop Philip`s address to the (Zoom) assembled congregation, which has been kindly passed on to us by the Bishop's office. It makes a worthy read as it is both entertaining and inspirational as well as being informative.
Sermon by The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro:
Here are the notes for Bishop Philip`s address:
Sermon at Feb 2020 licencings: Ephesians 4:1-13
A man was driving along a mountain road in the South of France, when suddenly a car driven by an attractive blonde shot round the corner ahead of him on the wrong side of the road. Frantically he swerved close to the edge, throwing gravel down into the gorge far below. She missed him by a hair’s breadth. And as she shot past she shouted out ‘Pig!’ He was outraged and couldn’t help but shout back ‘Pig yourself!’ And then he drove round the corner and hit the pig.
Now I tell that story just to illustrate that what a word means to one person it may well not mean to another. And there are few words of which that is more true than the word ‘church’. We tend to have fairly fixed and fairly strong views of what Church is – of what ought, or ought not, to happen; of how people ought, or ought not, to behave; of what we ought, or ought not, to do. We tend to have fairly fixed and fairly strong views of what Church is – believe me, I get the letters! - but rarely perhaps do we stop and ask whether we’re right.
And in many ways those questions of what Church ought to look like are only getting sharper as we face a time of unprecedented change in the life of the Church. This pandemic has produced much more change in us in a few months than we could have achieved in years as we’ve learnt to go online, like this evening. The loving service the church has offered to the wider community has also been outstanding. But it’s also produced significant uncertainty in us too. We just don’t know what the future will look like.
That uncertainty can leave us yearning for the past – and a possibly imagined and idealised past at that. A few years ago, I said to my wife, ‘I know where I’d like to move next.’ She said, ‘Where?’ and I replied, ‘The Eighteenth century.’ And of what of course I had in mind was being a country parson in a nice rural Vicarage, dining with the local gentry, distributing largesse to the poor of the parish, and enjoying all the benefits and privileges of my position. Sadly my wife said, ‘Well you can go there yourself then’ so that put paid to that.
But you can see what I’m saying, I’m sure. There are many temptations to look back to an imagined past. But I think they are just that: temptations. And of course the past has always changed too. Our Diocesan vision, The Saints’ Way says this, We in Cornwall (not forgetting St. Giles on the Heath and Virginstow) are inheritors of a remarkable and distinctive Christian heritage stretching back many centuries, possibly to the very earliest days of the Christian faith. This is a land where the gospel has been shared with passion and commitment, and at risk to life and limb, from the days of Piran and Petroc, Ia and Adwenna, through to the days of John Wesley, Henry Martyn and Billy Bray, to name just a few. Being church in Cornwall has not always been a rest cure, not by any means. In many ways our day has much more in common with the era of the early Celtic saints than it does with the 18thC. And that was a hard time.
Our distinctive Christian heritage and history in Cornwall has much to teach us – and there are vital lessons to learn – but even more we need to go back to scripture and hold up all our ideas about church to the Bible and ask ourselves how they measure up: which brings us to our reading from the letter to the Ephesians, to the Christians in the Church in Ephesus.
If you want to know what church should look like there’s no better place than the letter to the Ephesians . In our passage Paul is saying that to each one of us, as Christians, grace and gifts have been given: not just to some, but to all. That’s fundamental. Yes, God has called some within his church – Alison & Nicki included of course – to specific works of ministry. But this is the key point: he hasn’t called those people – people such as Alison & Nicki - to do all the work of ministry. Not at all. He has called people such Alison & Nicki to their ministry, to enable you all to do the work of ministry: in Paul’s words to equip God’s people for works of service. In the words of ‘The Saint’s Way’, the church is a community in which each member has a part only they can play, using the gifts only they have been given.
It’s always been the case that a – perhaps the – prime task of ordained ministers has been to enable others to engage in ministry themselves through the exercise of their God-given gifts. But I think we are now seeing that even more clearly than once we did. One priest, one parish, doing all the work, was never realistic, probably not even in the 18thC, and it certainly isn’t now. One priest, one parish, doing all the work, is certainly not realistic. But nor is it Biblical! God’s best; God’s primary design for his church is for all of his people to be involved in the work of ministry, sharing his truth, his love and his grace with one another and with the people to whom they are called. And it’s Alison & Nikki`s primary task in ministry to help you all engage in the ministry to which he calls you each; and to which he calls you all.
I think it’s just wonderful when all God’s people engage in the ministry to which he calls us – not necessarily easy, not necessarily tidy, but certainly wonderful. And when it does happen then something even more wonderful happens. Then we begin to look different, because something truly significant happens to us. Listen to how Paul’s passage about ministry ends: the ministry to which he calls Alison & Nicki and to which he calls us all: Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
That is the prospect, the hope, the expectation, that our God holds out for us: that we might attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ: that Jesus himself might be seen and known in all his fulness in his church which not only bears his name, but which is his body. To quote ‘The Saints’ Way’ again, the purpose of all ministry – both lay and ordained - is to enable the glorious, transforming reality of Jesus Christ to be known in and through his Church.
Nothing I believe is more important than that the life of Jesus is seen in his Church, in his people; that we truly become the Body of Christ; that in his Church people encounter the living Christ himself. Nothing I believe is more important than that the life of Jesus is seen in his Church. Nothing in this world I think matters more than that – as together we exercise the gifts and ministries which our God gives us, and to which he calls us – so that together we become the place in which the Lord lives by his Spirit. And there is nothing he cannot and will not do amongst us as we become such a people.
So my friends, tonight, with Alison & Nicki, have your expectations set high. There is nothing our God cannot do. And through your life together may the Lord indeed do something amazing in you and through you, here in these parishes, in this wonderful place, in the power of his Spirit, and to the glory of his holy name. May his blessing rest upon you for all that together he calls you to. Amen!