One of the most consistent themes in the teaching of Pope Francis is his intolerance of intolerant religion! Pope Francis warns, in no uncertain terms, against rigid Christianity- the sort closed to true expressions of faith. The sort that proves inflexible, self referential and totally unable to accommodate the other. In short he speaks of a new breed of neo-palageonists dwelling within the church; Palagianism being the heresy that man can choose good for himself without the need for divine grace and our co-operation with God. Those who look to self not God for salvation.

I delight in the warning because it chimes with my experience. The church is often let down, and found floundering, where congregations attempt to live out faith in a narrow way. Most people imagine narrow Christians as being the ultra conservative type of bigot, who denounces any change at all. And certainly stuffed shirts exist in the traditionalist wing and can be cold and uncompromising souls.

But understand that the rigid Christian is also found elsewhere. In fact the largest group in the church that I have encountered are found where the parish has become secularised- where a lowest denominator community club has sprung up, existing for the glorification of its members and their favoured political agendas, rather than as a spiritual body alive for Christ and open to what the  Spirit is doing. Yes every subsection of the church has its intransigent tyrants!

It can surprise people when I suggest liberals can be inflexible neo-Palagian totalitarian too. But it is certainly true. How else does one explain the total silence from some prelates regarding moral issues coupled with the speed with which they vehemently opposed Cardinal Sarah when he merely suggested giving traditional worship a chance? What is that but proof of angered ideologues defending their quarters?

We must accept then that many of a certain generation have rather fossilised, meaning they are not totally wed to but one particular expression of faith, the sort centred on worship bands and left wing political causes. Note all in this camp- of course- some are authentically liberal and very tolerant and decent people. But others are dug in to their favoured ways and will do anything to protect their own agendas. And these, I believe, are the rigid neo-Palagians causing most damage.

For the are so set in their ways as to have closed off their minds from even debating what is best for the church. Only 70’s style religion will do and any notion that this might have actually contributed to decline is rejected in anger. And the fact that more traditional worship seems to be speaking to the next generation does not, therefore, cause them pleasure but pain. They just get enraged when young people call for altar rails, traditional music or solemnity. For they are deeply suspicious of anything not conforming to their own limited (often erroneous) interpretation of Vatican II. Little wonder this same group grumbled so bitterly about the introduction of the new translation of the Mass. After all it is different – and encourages a sense of continuity not rupture.

Having grown self referential but powerful, this lobby are of a certain generation, they now seek to stifle anything that does not accord with their desire; hence the clear and obvious disdain for ad orientem worship, even where it is bearing fruit,  the luke warm reception of the New Evangelisation, Summorum Ponitifum and, of course, the Ordinariate. These neo-Palagianists  want a uniform church in their image, nothing else will do. And those things that encourage reverence, beauty and a look to the past are not to be tolerated!

Once you understand this rigid agenda the answers to mysteries become clear. You understand why the latest ARCIC meeting, a baby of this type of Catholic, made no mention of the Ordinariate, nor seeks to include our voices, despite the Ordinariate being not the freshest expression of ecumenism, an initiative of the papacy and the final word and formal answer to the Anglican question! Instead it is ignored and belittled by prelates too rigid to accommodate it. They adhere instead to what they wish was true, indulging gestures, but in denial of doctrinal reality. Which is to state that their own road map to unity, which was ARCIC, has largely stalled if not ended in failure; developments within the Anglican Communion having rendered unity all but impossible- as had to be conceded before the photo opportunities.

We might also consider how quickly these rigid folk attacked Cardinal Sarah for suggesting experimentation with ad orientem worship might be healthy.This group clearly despises anything other than their own favoured way- especially what is rooted in appreciation of the cultic aspect of worship – the encounter of the soul with the supernatural divine. Well Palagianists would, wouldn’t they? They prefer to look to man not God – to the prevailing culture not the faith of the ages.

If only we could help them past this terrible fear they might learn to love diversity. They might come to see that there is plenty of room in the church for both modern and traditional styles of worship, so long as all worship is rooted in truth. They might realise that the Tridentine Rite, for example, can happily co-exist with the Novus Ordo and with Divine Worship. There really is room for all and we don’t need to be so very inflexible as to deny the life of the other and engage in the culture war. A month in Pembury might help- for here we offer a variety of services and all are encouraged to support one another.


Yesterday evening the parish was treated to a wonderful talk on grace delivered by Father Andrew Pinsent; Research Director at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion in Oxford. What was genuinely remarkable is that Father Andrew travelled all the way from Oxford just for this talk during a week in which he has some serious deadlines to meet regarding a two million dollar project which he is currently working on. What a great honour for us in Pembury that he came all that way at such a busy time. The parish is very grateful. He is our hero!

What was also very encouraging was Father Andrew’s response to his first experience of the Ordinariate liturgy, Divine Worship. He was really impressed and told us all that he considered it a very dignified and reverent liturgy. He returned to Oxford with a mass booklet and a copy of the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham on the promise that he will use it for a month!

The final talk in our lecture series will be delivered on November 16th when the mischievous genius that is Fr. Hunwicke will speak to us on the theme ‘blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake’. Put it in the diary.


Two things occured this week that convinced me that we in the West have truly entered the age of Aquarius; a politically correct era in which only feminine virtues are valued whilst masculine virtues are demonised. The first was when a healthy debate was deleted on Facebook because one side felt hurt by the argument put forth. The second when I read about a highly respected American theologian and philosopher having his knuckles rapped by his seniors- again for hurting feelings with considered and reasonable argument.

How difficult to talk sense, or encourage free thinking, when virtues are turned into vices within the vox populi. Holding a strong opinion, for example, is now deemed a sin, something socially unacceptable, whilst toleration at all costs, even of the morally questionable or plain wrong, is upheld as only good. It creates a confusing topsy-turvy narrative in which fact must give way to feelings, and truth opened up to personal interpretation, that ‘me and my story’ need never be threatened. Else I scream and scream and stamp my foot! So there!

It is pathetic. If you doubt that consider how young men in 1944 heroically took to the beaches of Normandy to fight for our freedom on D-Day whilst today’s young people, in American Universities, require “safe spaces” – zones where those with hurt feelings can retreat without fear of being questioned- should viewpoints other than their own dismay them. Clearly academic challenge is no longer desired. Actually the situation is beyond pathetic. It is sick; a symptom of an over indulgent, narcissistic culture. One that has clearly abandoned truth in favour of massaging bruised egos. One that has abandoned God for self. Why should the natural law and divine law govern the meta narrative when my personal feelings could dictate?

And alas the virus has infected the church. In fact it is particularly manifest in ecclesial circles. Meaning that whilst the Saints and Martyrs of old were celebrated for being strident in defence of the faith, we might consider St. Catherine of Sienna or St. Nicholas, today’s clergy are pressured at all costs to be “nice” and inoffensive. Clerics need not fear bishops if they denounce doctrine or preach heresy..but woe betide the person whose “tone is wrong” or who is “rigid” in upholding the truth of the Gospel and thereby rocks the boat regarding modern sensitivities! They will almost certainly be cast to the margins, to serve on Craggy Island, whilst vanilla middle manager types become the golden boys;  the wetter the better it seems.

It is a truth I discovered courtesy of this blog. Never has anybody pointed out doctoral error but I have been ticked off before now for causing offence! What happens is that somebody (almost always a high Anglican who did not embrace the Ordinariate) reads a viewpoint they do not like. Instead of simply avoiding the blog, which is after all an opt-in medium, or debating in civilised but robust manner, they go running in tears to a hierarch. “That nasty man hurt my feelings”. The hierarchy inevitably attempt to placate the sore loser of debate and give a friendly warning- “It isn’y your message but your tone”, which, when you unpack it, boils down to the point above: ‘by all means state your case but please ensure you give credence to all argument”. That is don’t uphold the old fashioned notion of truth which, by its definition, puts someone in the wrong and thereby could hurt their feelings!!

it happened again this week when a healthy  debate on social media was closed down and deleted. Why? Because an ex-Anglican became “hurt” when I insisted, politely I should add, that the creation of the Ordinariate, coupled with decisions made by the Church of England’s General Synod, mean that the argument of a via media is defunct. One might choose with integrity to be high church protestant but any suggestion of authentic Catholic life residing within 21st Century Anglicanism is spurious. The post was deleted lest it  “offend” which thoroughly depressed me- I mean what hope the ordinariate of succeeding, in the face of stiff opposition, if its leadership is frightened of debate? If we do not go into those places where we actually challenge in love then we are doomed. It is a serious problem and not only for the Ordinariate but for all.

Now please note this isn’t an attack on the decision in that instance. The cleric involved is a good priest whom I admire, as were all who took part in the debate. And there was arguably wisdom in ensuring bridges are maintained not burnt. But, nonetheless, there is an issue at the heart of this matter worthy of consideration. Should we be afraid of offending others on the path to seeking the truth?

Why do we think tone so important? Why do we seem so afraid of strident viewpoint and rigorous debate? Why  take so personally points made theoretically? Jesus was hardly charitable when speaking with those he disagreed with; he came to bring a sword, he assured us, to divide even brother against brother. Nor were the majority of saints and martyrs agents of compromise. Rather they died for their beliefs. And historically we have celebrated that fact. So why this modern demand for honey when vinegar is needed?  When did we become so emasculated as to fear even debate? Why do we demonise those we simply disagree with- as was obviously the case over Brexit?

Somehow we have remind people that it is possible to be a gentleman yet vociferously debate. It is possible to love people but strongly disagree with them. But this modern tendency to be ‘nice at all costs’ must end for it is seriously damaging and demeaning the church and culture of our day.

Within the world it compels us to forget (or ignore) the rudimentary biological facts about Harold’s DNA and testicles the moment he chooses to ‘identify’ as a woman.  We no longer treat the delusion with gentle compassion but actually become bit- players in the delusion. The law chastising those who do not refer to him as her, or her as him, and all according to their personal whim. In the church it feeds a capitulating narrative that dare not question ecumenical partners or those who do not adhere to the faith… whilst routinely demonising, as rigid and unwelcome and uncaring, those actually attempting to live out the faith. It is a form of gushy madness. It has to end if the year following 2016 is not to become 1984.

So if you don’t like this post. Tough! By all means tell me I am wrong in the comments below. You could well be right- certainly I have many flaws. Fortunately for you I am big enough to accept such criticism so long as it doesn’t descend to personal insult. But, please, let us be big enough to disagree in love. To come to different viewpoints and yet remain friendly. Let us dare to be thought of as wrong. Let us dare to be hurt for the sake of religious freedom and genuine democracy. Otherwise philosophy and freedom will die and enforced uniformity will be all that is left to us.


A reminder that our penultimate Year of Mercy lecture takes place next Wednesday 26th October. Our guest speaker is the excellent Father Andrew Pinsent– a celebrated priest and scientist who, in my opinion, is always worth listening to. Low Mass at 7pm and the talk at 8pm. See you there I hope….


The final day of the pilgrimage would prove a very long one! It began with an early morning Mass at St. Peter’s – over the tomb of Pope St. John Paul II. Once the clergy had been properly vetted, by presenting their celebrets in the sacristy, the stewards led us into the chapel where we were joined by a few lone pilgrims.


After Mass some of our group opted to take breakfast in the nearby cafes whilst others ascended the roof of St. Peter’s and visited the museums. Meanwhile I went hunting for a suitable gift for the parish as the group had surprised Fr. Nicholas and myself the day before by presenting us with a tidy sum as a token of thanks. It is being posted to Pembury and will remain a secret until it is unveiled…


Celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s is not always a peaceful experience- it is always busy with so many groups doing the same- but it is always deeply significant. How long I laboured within the Church of England never quite certain as to the validity of my orders. How different to be welcomed in Rome as a priest like any other! Here was a testament to what was achieved via the Ordinariate. Unity in action and not just in words. We retain our distinctiveness- as witnessed by our use of Divine Worship- and yet we are undeniably one!


After Mass I wandered back to the hotel alone following the river and watching the leaves dropping from the trees. Once at the hotel it was time for administration- helping Father Nicholas book taxis to the airport. Then- to say thank you- I took him and Mary, has wife (who also needs recognition for much hard work in helping organise this pilgrimage) for lunch. It was a good time for us to reflect and laugh and enjoy the final moments together. There was even time for a quick visit to the church of St. Cecelia, just moments away from the hotel. Then in the afternoon we rounded everybody up and heading off for our flight home. Some were easier to spot than others….


This being the pilgrimage cursed by public transport the journey, but of course, took far longer than anticipated. A four hour delay meaning we arrived back in Pembury just short of 4:30am!!! I only had time to shower and have a cup of coffee before the children woke up and hunted me down demanding to know if I had purchased them gifts. Three football shirts- belonging to Roma, Juventus and Lazio- were pulled from the bag and three children were happy indeed. Huge thumbs up to grandma and grandad who had looked after them so well.


And that then was that. A truly memorable trip to Rome with a fantastic group of people. Our two pilgrims from Essex having remarked at how welcome they felt amongst us. And once we have all recovered from the return journey then I am sure we will want to know when the next one takes place. Watch this space….


What then did we take home with us? A massive appreciation of the joy of being in communion with Peter. A delight in having celebrated our English heritage and spirituality with a focus on its roots in the eternal city. The fun of being together in such a beautiful and holy place. And the deep blessing that came from the services we shared together. A tour of the eternal city for Divine Worship and the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham. Oh and Father Joe- we always love being with him and delighting in his joy and warmth. A final picture shows him exercising both charity and patience as he finds himself trapped in a local bar…..




Wednesday morning and Mass was offered in Rome’s only Gothic masterpiece- Santa Maria Sopra Minerva; titular church of Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor. It is one of my favourite churches in Rome. Beneath the main altar lies St. Catherine of Sienna and the artist Fra Angelico is also buried here. We celebrated the holy mysteries in the chapel close to his tomb and were joined by a number of nuns. It was then time to hot foot it to the train station for our day’s excursion out of the city centre…


Only this being a pilgrimage failed at every turn by public transport the train had been cancelled. There were a few groans at this point but there was nothing for it but to wait in the coffee shop of the train station and wait for another. As you can see the time was productively spent gossiping by the clergy. Once the next train arrived we hopped on it and travelled out to the hills, our destination being the Palazzola; summer residence of the English College in Rome.


The Palazzola is beautiful. A 13th Century former cistercian monastery which now serves the English College in Rome, as well as the guests who stay there and the functions that take place throughout the year. Built around the site of an old volcanic explosion the views are nothing short of breathtaking. The Palazzola staff had prepared a most delicious meal for us and we enjoyed relaxing in the gardens before Evening Prayer and the journey back to Rome.


DAY 4:

On Thursday morning we enjoyed a more leisurely breakfast with free time offered to pilgrims to explore the city. I took a handful to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona with time factored in for a visit to a clerical outfitters. We then walked to the English College in Rome for a lunchtime Mass in the beautifully restored church. This was followed by a tour of the gallery which honours the martyrs of England and Wales; the gruesome images a stark reminder of the horrors inflicted on Catholics in England at the time of the reformation. We pondered how similar were the tactics of the barbarians then- destroying sacred images and bullying by the point of the sword- to the accounts of ISIS in our day.


A late lunch was then taken in the city before the pilgrims met up again. This time close to the forum and Colloseum- the truly ancient basilica of Ss. Cosmas and Damian the setting for Evening Prayer. Alas a few pilgrims fell behind the Leviseur march and were lost. So the start was somewhat delayed! But we did eventually get to enjoy this most stunning of sacred spaces. After which beer was absolutely necessary before the walk back to the hotel.


Not that Father Nicholas or myself returned to Trastavere. We had an appointment with Francis, a seminarian from the English College who worked hard prior to our arrival booking the services and smoothing our plans. His reward was supper at a restaurant close to the college. Every night was party night in Rome – the picture below having been taken the evening before. Tomorrow I will conclude the review with tales of our final day and a reflection of what we took home…



Last week 32 pilgrims travelled to Rome and the experience was a wonderful one, at least from my perspective. Fast paced, and therefore tiring at times, but crammed with happy memories. The only down side being public transport- which failed us at every opportunity! Over the next two days I will retrace our journey and share the experiences. With thanks to Liz Blande for the better photographs which I have ripped from her Facebook account this morning!


We set off in the early hours of Monday morning arriving in good time to catch our flight…only to discover a two hour delay due to staffing problems. This delay would have a knock on effect as we had been scheduled to arrive in time for lunch before visiting St. John Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore. Instead we had a very late lunch at an excellent little restaurant in Trastavere, where our hotel was located, and decided to omit the visit to St. John Lateran. Fortunately the late lunch was excellent!


After lunch we had to fly up the hill to Santa Maria Maggiore for Mass at 4pm. Father Nicholas set a bruising pace- you can take the man out of the military and all that- and we all just made it! But what a walk it was. We went over the top of the forum and viewed the statue of Romulus and Remus, we glimpsed the Colosseum and then hiked up the hill to the great Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows.


There in the sacristy, to our absolute delight, was Father Joseph Aduse; long time friend of our parish in Pembury due to our link with Ghana. He has recently moved to Rome to establish a chaplaincy for Ghanaians and took a few days leave to be a full part of our pilgrimage. And so three priests concelebrated our first Mass in the chapel of the Crucifixion according to Divine Worship- the Ordinariate rite. The rite we would exclusively use over the following week.

After Mass we sauntered home at a more leisurely pace. Some pilgrims diverting for instant refreshment and others returning to Trastavere to offer Evensong first. A nice Italian lady paused to take a photograph with my telephone of those leading the charge back to the hotel. She took at least 20 for some reason and none were terribly good!!



Morning prayer in the chapel was uplifting. An excellent acoustic supporting our impressive singing. We were joined by pilgrims from America and Ireland who were also resident in the hotel. Our morning and evening prayer were taken from the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham and it was very fitting that we had a run of English saints, like St. Wilfrid, who had lived their lives in fierce fidelity to Rome. We then walked over the bridge to San Giorgio in Velabro for what would prove a truly mystical and uplifting experience.


San Giorgio in Velabro was the Titular Church of Blessed John Henry Newman. So offering Mass according to Divine Worship in this place  (was it a first?) was always going to be very special. In the event it was not only a blessed experience but one charged with a sense of mystery and awe. Indeed I had a very powerful sense whilst celebrating at the altar that Newman was standing at my shoulder. This left me with a real sense of the Holy Spirit confirming the Ordinariate vision and it transpired, when speaking after Mass, that many of our pilgrims had shared a sense that something special was occurring. The Mass had reduced many to tears and people were absolutely buzzing about the experience for days afterwards. Praise God!


Understand that I am not the sentimental sort who is prone to experiential mysticism. Indeed charismatic claims tend to leave me cold. But there have been a handful of moments in my ministry where the veil between heaven and earth have become very thin indeed and the presence of God has been unmistakable. First when I felt called to the priesthood. Once on entering each church I have ever ministered in, especially strong at St. Anselm’s. And also here. It was an experience that has galvanised my resolve to do more for the Ordinariate. God needs us to build of that I am certain. And despite the many obstacles we will prevail.


After lunch we caught a coach to the Via Appia and visited the catacombs. The tour was very moving and our young female guide was very skilled at emphasising the Christian dimension. The weather wasn’t wonderful as we ascended so we adjourned to a small cafe on the main road for coffee and cake. Then it was a short walk to the wonderful tiny church of Domino Quo Vadis where we offered Evensong; reflecting on Peter’s courageous decision to return to Rome and die for the faith he professed. What are we willing to sacrifice for Christ? What are we running away from that needs restoring in Christ?


The more hardy pilgrims then walked back to the hotel with Father Nicholas, discovering in the process that his claimed distances were somewhat short of the truth! But it was a very worthwhile trek which took in some fabulous sites. Meanwhile I escorted the tired and lame on the coach and we waited in the nearest bar for them to return. Then it was time for people to travel to supper again. As you can see Hayley rather enjoyed the Aperol Spritzers. Don’t worry we stacked ours in front of her to incriminate- she did only drink one…at a time!


To be continued….


The day has arrived and the packing has begun. In the very early hours of tomorrow morning 32 of our parishioners head to Rome for a pilgrimage. As you can see we have liturgy and music books of the highest standard. We also have a truly wonderful programme of services and visits sorted.

Those attending the pilgrimage are reminded that the coach departs from St. Anselm’s at 3:15am sharp and from the pickup point in Tunbridge Wells at 3:30am. Dawdle by all means – but understand the bus will not wait! We then head to Gatwick for the early morning flight to Rome- arriving at our hotel just in time to share a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant.

A few parishioners have noted with amusement that Father Nicholas, having kindly organised our pre-dawn gathering, himself left for Rome last Friday at a far more agreeable hour! For which I have assured them that he will be fined a bottle of wine! He assures me that he is busy sorting things out for a smooth stay but such excuses will fall on deaf ears. I rather like wine.

Please pray for us as we shall pray for you. We will be offering Mass for our parish and those unable to join us, for the residents at East Sutton Park Prison where I am chaplain on a different day and for the intentions of those travelling with us. Most of Rome’s principle churches are expecting us. I really think it is going to be a grace filled time and lots of fun.


The churchmen in the photograph above must be sharing the exciting news regarding the Annual Colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy which is taking place at Aylesford this year between the 3rd and 4th November!

I really do urge all priests who value their faith to join the Confraternity and support this event. My brother priests in the Ordinariate might like to know that the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy have been great friends to us from our inception and welcome our membership. This year’s speakers are Fr. Jerome Betram, Dom Mark Kirby and Fr. Guy de Gaynesford and Bishop Paul Mason will also be present to celebrate Mass.

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, which has branches across the world, has three guiding principles. It seeks to show fidelity; to Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, the Councils and Catechism of the Catholic Church and to the Holy Father. It centres on formation; in human, spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral aspects of the Priesthood, and assistance in the Priestly ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing. And it upholds fraternity; in mutual support and encouragement of Priestly life and ideals, by conferences, local chapters, study, retreats and publications. In other words it is a solid mainstream organisation that seeks to inspire professionalism and good standards amongst the clergy.

I am posting my booking form today!

Pope Francis carries a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament during the Corpus Christi observance May 30 in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)  (May 30, 2013) See POPE-CORPUSCHRISTI May 30, 2013.

A copy of Sunday’s sermon.

What does God expect of Christians? The new testament is, of course, the answer. In it Jesus, and later his followers, tell us precisely what is expected of those who take up the cross and follow.

St. Paul provided three helpful images. In Philippians he speaks of Christians as bond-slaves. Now Bond slaves had nothing to do with 007  but were liberated souls who, despite a new-found freedom, opted to remain in service of their masters out of love. The point being that we should serve Christ out of love not out of some sense of enforced duty.

In 2 Timothy St. Paul described Christians as Soldiers of Christ. We must expect spiritual battle. A war rages for the salvation of our souls. We must battle not only self but also the world and the devil. St Paul understands this point; stressing that this conflict is so severe that those genuinely attempting sanctification need put on the armour of Christ. Daily! Faith is not to be a vacation or feel good comfort blanket or an exercise in celebrating self. In fact weaklings and cowards need not apply. Because being a Christian is tough. You need self-discipline and virtue. You need to put in a lot of effort and you need to be willing to die to self.

Finally, in Ephesians. St. Paul refers to Christians as ambassadors for Christ. We are to be representatives of God on this earth. Speaking up for him, delivering his (and not our) message in love. And the reverse is true, we must speak on behalf of this world to God; interceding for sinners. All of which takes courage, warns Paul, because the prince of this world is at war with the God of heaven. Paul should know; he was imprisoned, flogged and beaten for his faith in Jesus. So again we learn that living out the faith with sincerity is not for wets or weaklings. And if we are not struggling with self, the world and the devil in our walk with Christ then something is seriously amiss.

Put Paul’s descriptions together and one thing becomes clear. Christianity is as much about action and behaviour as it is about belief. Our lives should be discernibly different from those around us- because we belong to God! That was clearly St. Paul’s message. Now let us look at what Jesus expects of his believers.

Well he too warned of struggle. If the world hates you- remember it hated me first.  Again the popular myth of comfortable easy going religion is dispelled. People seeking comfort or self indulgence should not climb the hill of Calvary. Those who shrink from difficult tasks will not take up the cross, they should avoid the scapular or collar. Because those in thrall to the noise of this world won’t discern that still small voice of God. If we go about faith seriously expect conflict and suffering, even martyrdom. Christians in Syria know that only too well. The timid are no good. God needs those who will bear witness to Him regardless of consequence and with unfailing confidence. You cannot have the crown without the cross.

Jesus also said ‘if your brother sins against you, rebuke him; but if he repents, forgive him’ We see here a balance between being firm but gentle. This is where the modern Church gets unstuck – it has grown weak and seeks only to be gentle and never firm. The Church of nice. But ‘peace at any price’ is no Christian mantra. You wont find it anywhere in the Gospel. Because soldiers stand for something. They do not water down revelation to appease the world. The blood of the martyrs proves this point. And when society is wrong, say via support for abortion or the breakdown of the family, the church must hold the line and not count the cost. Speaking out for Christ in defence of truth. That is what being a soldier means. For the only other option is to roll over and surrender truth for compromise. The reverse of what any saint or martyr ever did.

Finally Jesus asked Christians to believe that faith can cause things to happen. It should inspire us to act! ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could say unto this sycamore tree.. ’ Many people ask believe in God but leave it there! Believe mightily in God’s kingdom but wouldn’t uproot a daisy to establish it! Let alone a sycamore. We live in strange days when Christians speak proudly about the role of faith in history, about the heroism of former saints, but prove totally disinclined themselves to make history for Christ or become a saint!

The current generation of believers, who should be lions, have become mice. Frightened of the world and frightened to offend it. Not standing up for Christ because, I suspect, we are all too comfortable. Why focus on the culture of death when a new season of Bake-off airs at 9…

We all like the idea of  a gentle private faith. And the world has never objected to a private faith with good reason. It might produce pleasant spiritual experiences for self but it is never enough to build the kingdom or transform the world. Faith needs translating into brave action to work miracles; to be justified and proved in the fires of this world. Belief alone does nothing. Yet so many today act as if belief is enough. They do almost nothing concrete for Christ. Nothing to establish his kingdom on earth. Nothing for the salvation of souls.

Ultimately it is impossible to reflect on the teaching of Jesus, and later St Paul, regarding discipleship without feeling embarrassed , even scandalised, by the church in the West. For it has been on the most recent watch that faith has grown lukewarm and the faith of past generations has been surrendered to the Spirit of the Age- that prevailing anti-Christian culture- with barely a whimper.

What Christ and St Paul taught was no impossible ideal requiring us to merely aim for it and expect nobody to live it out. It was a minimum standard for living faith- the sort that can bring light into darkness, the sort that is salt in this world. How the modern church needs to wake up and establish the kingdom! We must stop hiding in trenches and confront this world with love and prayer, example and action. We must focus on Christ not self and we must believe the faith can be lived out!

We approach a year of evangelisation for our little parish; a time for self examination. Is my faith growing or diminishing? What do I offer besides my belief? Am I actually building the kingdom with my life? Winning souls for Christ including my own? These questions leave me a little ashamed, so please join me in trying to do better. Pray for our year of outreach- that you might reach out yourself to God. Let us together make this coming year of mission work successful. For that I need your support and contribution. No- He- needs your support and contribution. That this church might be a growing one that is full of bond-slaves, ambassadors and soldiers for Christ. What a vision for us to aim for. Lets do it.