Yesterday evening the pews were full as Fr. Marcus Holden delivered the first of the ‘Our Father’ lecture series. He approached his line ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ by considering the vital role of grace in the life of faith. What followed was a first rate and pertinent lecture for the present time. Make sure you listen to it by playing the link below.
All of the lectures this coming year will be recorded and audio links will be placed on a permanent webpage entitled ‘Our Father lectures’ on the header of this site. The next lecture takes place on Wednesday 23rd October when Fr. Hunwicke will speak on the theme ‘Hallowed be thy name”
When slavery was not hidden, as it is today under zero hour contracts or in the murky waters of human trafficking, it was impossible to be slave to two masters. Every moment of a slave’s day; every inch of the slave’s body belonged to their master. The slave existed only to serve and there was no way out, no court of appeal. So when Jesus stated you cannot serve two masters, against a backdrop of slavery, his audience understood what he meant. But to understand why we cannot hope to serve God and money he gave us a curious parable warning us about the danger of corruption.
A rich man had a steward; perhaps the greatest rogue found anywhere in scripture. This isn’t to say he wasn’t intelligent or capable; the estate was left in his hands, he maintained property, paid bills, hired workers, collected rent. Yet, all the while, skimming for his own pocket. It seems he got away with it for some years, doubtless the cooked books presented well. But somewhere along the line, as so often happens, the mistake was made and his dishonesty came to light. Perhaps he squeezed someone too hard or an honest soul suspected falsification? It is important. What matters is that the cat was now put among the pigeons! The indignant land owner demands a full enquiry. The outlook was now bleak, and not just for that steward, because we know that he himself often looked the other way when those beneath him cheated so long as he could take a slice. That is how corruption works. The point here is that the steward not only ruined himself but damaged others too. His distorted love of money led him to betray his master and lead others into sin.
Christians cannot serve God without integrity. Our actions are as important as our rhetoric. We cannot serve God in secret lives; skimming money or doing things when we think nobody is looking that we know full well he condemns. This point needs over emphasising in an era of church scandal. Doubtless the perverts and thieves who have brought much shame on the church recently started with good intention. Were capable, bright and good stewards in most regards. It is just that they went about the business of serving the institutional church making exceptions for themselves. I am celibate but what harm in a little dalliance here? I am called to virtue but I am sure a little of this bequest won’t be missed? Little sin by little sin souls turn black indeed…until even bishops can have grubby hidden lives that cause shame. No you cannot serve God and mammon. If your own comfort comes first, to the point of dishonesty, you are heading for ruin.
The steward was in trouble then. His income had dried up. He had lost his job. Now he could, at this point, have done a prodigal son. He could have asked for pardon but that was never going to happen. He was too proud at this stage for that. He had lived by wits not his faith and he turns again to his wits not his faith. He goes to friends, “do you owe 100 that is a lot, let us help each other, write 80 but keep silent, master will never know”. Round he goes to each debtor, getting them on side, cutting deals. His corruption spreads its net. Note how that man was totally unchanged even when caught because, like so many in the world today, his heart belonged to self not to God. We like to imagine vainly that what we do when we think nobody is looking is the slip, the little mistake, but it turns out to be the most honest reflection of who we really are.
Give him credit the man was at least shrewd. He knew how look out for number one. “Mr so and so do you have the cash you owe – give me something now and I will reduce your debt. You don’t? Oh that is unfortunate, perhaps I best go to master and tell him how you borrowed more than you could afford. Shall we consider your falsified accounts, smaller than mine, it is true, but nevertheless…oh you do have some money. Thank you”
At the end of the parable the steward is praised for shrewdness. But not by Jesus please note!! Only by his worldly master who, in the twist in the tale, turns out to be just as corrupt himself. Once the steward lines his pockets he forgives. And isn’t that exactly how the world works? We live in a world that actively rewards the greedy and praises the corrupt just so long as they keep the money flowing in the right direction. But Jesus says that is not the way his Kingdom works. So make your choice!
Serve self, be shrewd, cheat and live for money and be praised by the corrupt master of this world. You will have your reward. Or live with integrity for God, serve him alone and the world to come will reward you. But don’t be so stupid as to imagine you can do both. By living for God but with a secret life, lived for sex or money or pleasure. Because it doesn’t work. You cannot serve God and mammon. And it will only lead to your ruin and the ruin of others. You either belong to the world or to God. How is your fight for personal integrity going within the life of faith?
A reminder that this Sunday we are keeping our Harvest Festival at St. Anselm’s. Please bring non perishable produce to Mass which will be donated to the local food bank for distribution to the needy. We shall, of course, sing all the favourite Harvest hymns and all will be safely gathered in during a procession of goods at the end of Mass. We will also pray for all who farm the earth and help to put food on the table.
Pembury is a village that faces the urban setting of Tunbridge Wells on one side but out onto rich farmland and woodland on the other. For centuries the fertile land of the surrounding area has promised good harvests to those who tend the land. Indeed recent excavations revealed that people have been growing food here since at least the iron age.
The most famous Kent crops are apples and hops. And Apples have been grown here in Pembury since time immemorial. Today the excellent Dowiningbury farm, which has a small shop selling local produce, continues the trend. The famous oast houses attached to the farm, pictured below, speak of the hops that were also grown here. Why not pay them a visit and help our local businesses to thrive?
A reminder that our special lecture series which runs throughout 2019/20, to mark 10 years of the announcement of the Ordinariate and the Canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman, will begin next Wednesday, 25th September. The evening will begin with Low Mass at 7pm followed by refreshments (donations of cake welcome) and then the lecture at 8pm followed by a short discussion.
Our first speaker is Fr. Marcus Holden, a great friend of the parish, who will speak on the theme ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’
Fr. Holden studied at Oxford before training for the priesthood at the English college in Rome. After ordination he served two parishes as assistant priest; in Balham where he helped build up a thriving congregation, and later St. Augustine’s in Tunbridge Wells where he gave support to the fledgling Ordinariate group that later made its home in Pembury. Fr. Marcus then moved to Ramsgate to become parish priest and oversaw a multi-million pound restoration of Pugin’s shrine to St. Augustine. He currently serves as parish priest at St. Bede’s Clapham Park.
Outside of parish ministry Father Marcus establish the Evangelium summer camps, which run for young adults every August to ensure they better understand the faith. He also co-authored the Evangelium Course which we use in this parish to instruct candidates for confirmation. Fr. Marcus helps run the UK branch of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a support group for clergy passionate about upholding the faith in fullness. And he has starred in many films produced by the excellent St. Antony Communications. He is a great friend to this parish and we are glad to welcome him back to launch our lecture series.
Yesterday afternoon I travelled to Otford, near Sevenoaks, for the baptism of baby Alice; youngest daughter of Deacon Roy Cavey and his wife, Beverley. The family normally worship at St. Anselm in Pembury, where Dcn. Roy is part of the clergy team.
Deacon Roy was born and raised in the villages around Sevenoaks where he and much of his extended family still live. Holding the service in Otford made sense then as it made it easy for family to attend. We were grateful to Fr. David Gibbons, parish priest of Sevenoaks, for letting us use the church for the baptism ceremony which was held according to the Ordinariate Rite. Alice being its newest member!
After the baptism, at which Deacon Robert preached and I celebrated, we were treated to a delicious spread of tea and cakes. Centrepiece was the wonderful baptism cake which was, I can assure you, delicious. Alice’s older sister grace is seen here sampling the first slice!
Our congratulation to the Caveys. Please pray for them and for all families raising children according to the faith. Our catholic families are the lifeblood and future hope for the church.
It has been a magical weekend for our family as we travelled to Aldeburgh in Suffolk for a special wedding. Matthew Jarvis, whose family are very close to mine, got married to his gorgeous bride, Victoria. We joined them on Friday, for a lovely evening meal at the Lighthouse restaurant, following the rehearsal in church.
The ceremony was performed at the Catholic Church in Aldeburgh, where I also concelebrated Mass on Sunday. The parish priest, Father Tony, could not have been more helpful and welcoming; stepping aside on Saturday, enabling me to officiate, whilst he served as registrar. The church is pretty with a magnificent reredos and made a perfect setting for the service.
Victoria, who handed in a masters dissertation just this week in anticipation of embarking on a second PHD, is a German lutheran. And it was wonderful to welcome her family from Germany for the wedding. To show the uniting of two families and traditions we had one reading in English and the next in German. The couple also made the vows twice- once in each other’s native tongue.
Matthew’s parents, Michael and Sheila, will be well known to many at St. Anselm’s as they are regular visitors to our parish and have joined us on pilgrimage. In fact both belong to our Ordinariate group in Pembury despite worshipping regularly, for practical reasons, at the Catholic Cathedral in Brentwood close to where they live.
Shiela is especially close to Jemima. Little wonder- she is her godmother! A most generous and indulgent one, truth be told. Indeed the beautiful dress Jemima wore was just one of many financed by ‘Auntie Shiela’ and I am sure readers will agree they both looked delightful.
Of course Hayley also looked radiant, pictured here at 12th Century Butley Priory where the reception was held. Even the Tomlinson boys scrubbed up well, after I swapped clericals for jacket and tie, having got over warm in all the vestments at the wedding! Benny also needed a change of clothes, splitting his trousers spectacularly whilst playing football with his brother.
It was a lovely venue for a party with coaches shuttling guests back and forth from Aldeburgh. I enjoyed it so much that I took the last coach at 1:30am which made Sunday a time for gentle voices only. Shame that I was sharing accommodation with my sons who always wake up before 6am!
I am not one to cry at weddings but admit to shedding a tear when Matthew’s brother, David, who has special needs and was the best man, delivered an amazing and uplifting speech. In it he declared his love for his brother and sister in law from the heart. David and I regularly lunch together and I meant it when I told him that he did a fantastic job.
Of your goodness pray for Matthew and Victoria this week as they begin their married life together. This week it is back to normality in Pembury but with some amazing memories of a very happy event.
Following on from last years successful Lay Conference, the Pastoral Council and the Deans are keen to develop further occasions for the laity of the Ordinariate to come together and are planning one day gatherings in each deanery.
The laity from the South-East are being invited to spend a day at The Church of the Precious Blood, O’Meara Street, London SE1 1TA on Saturday 21stat 11am. The church is a short walk from London Bridge. It would be good for every group to be represented.
The day will include a time to catch up with National and Deanery news; Mass; an opportunity to see and hear about the splendid renovation work which has been carried out in Precious Blood. Christopher Woodman (our financial secretary) will be joining us and will explain the state of our finances and answer questions; he will also welcome the opportunity to meet with group treasurers who are present.
A Sandwich lunch will be provided and the day will end at 4pm. Please register (for catering purposes) by e mail to email@example.com
In addition to parish duties in Pembury I spend a half day a week working as a prison chaplain at a ladies Prison. The post has offered me a welcome and stimulating distraction from village life over the years and I have much enjoyed hearing confessions, leading study groups, taking Mass and admitting people to the faith. Prisoners, who know their needs, tend to be receptive to the message of the Gospel in a way comfortable people are not.
This coming week I am attending a special conference for prison chaplains being held at St. Mary’s university in Twickenham. It will be strange for me to be visiting that part of London for business not pleasure! This means that there will be no weekday Mass on Tuesday or Thursday. We do however have Mass on Wednesday at 7pm (thanks to Fr. Ferguson) and also on Friday. Normal service will resume next week when it is back to the daily routine with gusto!