Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Alban and St. Patrick, Highgate

August and September Letter

1 Aug 2021, midnight

There is much to reflect on in the news and society at the moment. Covid-19 is still a big issue and I have written a separate reflection in it the magazine.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:28

I don’t normally watch football, but I did watch on the final of the of Euro 2020, though it was in July 2021. Even if you don’t watch football, you are probably aware that England lost in the final on penalties. You probably also heard about the racist abuse of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka that followed. I think it’s important to reflect on this and say something.

I would have thought that anyone watching would have been moved by the obvious anguish of Marcus Rashford when the ball hit the post, but it seems not everyone felt compassion. We know that some people let rip a torrent of racist abuse against 3 young black men. Natalie Elphike MP sent a WhatsApp message to colleagues snidely suggesting that the Marcus Rashford should have spent more time “perfecting his game” than “playing politics”. Others politicians are charged with hypocrisy because while they condemned the racist abuse, they previously complained about players taking the knee.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. Galatians 5:22-23

One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is kindness. Whether we are Christian or not we can all appreciate the value of kindness. Kindness does not criticise talented young men for missing a penalty. Kindness is not racist or unjust. Kindness sees the best in people and encourages them.

I don’t follow football, I don’t know Marcus Rashford, but it seems to me, that he is a role model of kindness, and of fighting against poverty and injustice. As a church we need to think about how we promote kindness, justice and fairness in our community.

Our foodbank is one way that we already help fight poverty. Giving space and time to Local Welcome to provide meals for Asylum seekers was another way we did this, though Covid-19 means that this no longer happens. For the future I hope that we can start a drop-in for asylum seekers and refugees when the pandemic allows.

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Looking around our church we are declining rather gathering new disciples. It’s not easy to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples and I think this is particularly difficult within a traditional Anglo-Catholic church. Just think of our young people: traditional ways of engaging our youngsters like serving don’t cut it anymore. Long services of traditional music might be attractive to some young people but not to ours. What is the way forward?

We should carry on our 10am traditional Mass for those who like it but every one of us has the responsibility for publicising and bringing along people who like Sung Mass. We need more though. The Anglo-Catholic churches in our deanery are getting together to write a grant application for an Anglo-Catholic resource church. I am also talking to people in our diocese about what youth work we can do. It’s important that we fully support both those initiatives. That doesn’t mean coming to events that are not your cup of tea, it means acknowledging that they are valid forms of worship and accepting that in order to survive St Alban’s has to be diverse.

Fr Gerry