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  • Unreconciled?: Exploring Mission in an Imperfect World
    Unreconciled?: Exploring Mission in an Imperfect World
    by Ann Richards, Mission Theology Advisory Group

    This book is the reference resource for the 2012 Lent courses at All Saints Ealing and St Martins West Acton. The focus is about making our theology of reconcilaition personal not just a matter of Christian duty. It is all too easy to pray for reconciliation for war torn countries "out there". But what about the reconciliation needed "in here"? What about the Unreconciled in our homes or on our doorsteps who feel left out, unheard, wounded or ignored? How can the local church offer the gift of Christ's reconciliation to those whose problems we are not even aware of?

  • Why Sacraments?
    Why Sacraments?
    by Andrew Davison

    A very thorough overview of the 7 sacraments and their relationship to the doctrine of the incarnation. Davison's writing is accessible, scholarly and succinct. 

  • Elements of Rite: A Handbook of Liturgical Style
    Elements of Rite: A Handbook of Liturgical Style
    by Aidan Kavanagh

    Essential source book for any liturgist. Kavanagh unpacks basic very profound principles informing healthy Echaristic worship.

  • Why Go to Church?: The Drama of the Eucharist
    Why Go to Church?: The Drama of the Eucharist
    by Timothy Radcliffe

    How the Eucharist brings us into slow work of faith, hope and love.

  • Creating Uncommon Worship: Transforming the Liturgy of the Eucharist
    Creating Uncommon Worship: Transforming the Liturgy of the Eucharist
    by Richard Giles

    This book highlights the great richness, variety and imaginitive potential of modern sacramental worship. A must read for liturgists.

  • The Art of Worship: Paintings, Prayers, and Readings for Meditation (National Gallery London)
    The Art of Worship: Paintings, Prayers, and Readings for Meditation (National Gallery London)
    by Nicholas Holtam

    An excellent collection of spiritual reflecions on selected artwork in the National Gallery. This is Nicholas Holtam (one time Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields and now Bishop Salisbury) at his best.

  • Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams
    Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams
    by Mike Higton

    A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the fundamental principles behind Rowan Williams' theology.

  • The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger
    The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger
    by Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett

    A compelling statistical study about equal societies and the broad based social benefits enjoyed in these nations. The numbers are easy and so is the read; but the implications are hard to swallow.

  • The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God
    The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God
    by Ronald Rolheiser

    What does authentic Christian spirituality look and feel like? This book explores these very relevant themes and will leave you deeply enriched.

  • Tradition and Imagination: Revelation and Change
    Tradition and Imagination: Revelation and Change
    by David Brown
  • Discipleship and Imagination: Christian Tradition and Truth
    Discipleship and Imagination: Christian Tradition and Truth
    by David Brown
  • God and Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience
    God and Enchantment of Place: Reclaiming Human Experience
    by David Brown
  • God and Grace of Body: Sacrament in Ordinary
    God and Grace of Body: Sacrament in Ordinary
    by David Brown
  • God and Mystery in Words: Experience through Metaphor and Drama
    God and Mystery in Words: Experience through Metaphor and Drama
    by David Brown
  • Poet and Peasant: Literary-cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke
    Poet and Peasant: Literary-cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke
    by Kenneth E. Bailey

    An outstanding study of the parables. Kenneth Bailey's profound insights into the Middle-Eastern culture of Jesus' day will revolutionise the way you see the parables. 

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Called to Perseverance not Preservation - Vision Sunday 2016

St Barnabas, Ealing. Vision Sunday, Sunday 16 October June, 2016. Readings.


In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If I were to coin a governing principle for the life of the local church I might say something like this: we are not called to preservation but perseverance. There you have it. Let tweets be tweeted. Of course, the encounter with the resurrected Christ in our gospel reading today does a much better job at conveying the power of this message than any slogan could. Jesus appears to his disciples and as with the other post-resurrection appearances they do not, at first, recognise him. This group of disciples return to their former occupation of fisherman and decide to set out to fish in the Sea of Tiberius. They catch absolutely nothing throughout the night. Then Christ asks them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat. This time, not only do they get results but the catch is so large that the nets strain to hold it.

The Gospel of John does not record the reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ prompting, but it does recount that he asks them to acknowledge they have caught nothing. I think it’s fair to surmise that these men felt it would probably make no difference whatsoever to the state of affairs whether they cast their nets to the left or the right of the boat. I would also think that by this point they would have been exhausted and most likely somewhat exasperated by the request. And yet, they comply. At the prompting of this compelling stranger something makes them persevere. 

There is an even deeper poignancy to this moment. Everything that they thought they had received from or understood about Jesus had been shattered by events in the preceding days. They had abandoned and betrayed their teacher to the malign agenda of the temple authorities and the ruthless machine of Roman imperial rule. The messiah had been executed. The bright hope of change, of a better future had been snuffed out. What was there left to do? “Nothing but to survive, to revert to form. Let us go fish. But even this leaves us empty handed.” The mood must have been shot through with shame, desolation and confusion.

The turning point in this story is not necessarily John’s sudden epiphany that this the Lord. The transformation begins earlier with the surprising willingness of the disciples to comply with an illogical command from a stranger who seemed familiar but was as yet unrecognised. The resurrected Jesus not only points the way to a seemingly impossible future, it is through both his presence and power together with the cooperation and perseverance of his followers that it is realised. In my mind there can be no better vision for the local church. We are the hope of the world not because of who we are or what we think or even necessarily what we do. We are the hope of the world, because the one who was dead is now alive and he is with us and makes us his own. He is with us even when we don’t feel it or recognise him and he guides us into a future of abundant life and renewal, justice and peace for all creation. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the well-known German Lutheran pastor who was imprisoned and later executed by the Nazis for being associated with a plot to assassinate Hitler, said this about the calling of the church:

“It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess, he builds. We must proclaim, he builds. We must pray to him, and he will build…It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to his church. ‘You confess, preach, bear witness to Me, and I alone will build where it pleases Me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough…”

An authentic and life-giving vision for the church is one that helps us to resist the delusion that we can usurp the work of the Saviour – unwittingly or otherwise. In our time this most often takes the form of anxious preservation. We are not called to preserve an institution or to prop-up a vaguely Christian form of the rotary club, what Bonhoeffer would identify as, “the building of temples to idols without wishing or knowing it.” First and foremost, we are called to be with Christ, to belong to him and to persevere with that belonging and responding even when all else seems lost. And this is where we began: the vocation of the local church is not preservation but perseverance with the good news that Jesus Christ is present, that Jesus Christ is the good news, that Jesus Christ is Lord of today and tomorrow.  

Our usual form at this time in our calendar is to consider a draft budget for the upcoming year. That exercise helps to refocus our minds on what we want to be achieving in the next 12 months and whether or not we have achieved the aims we set out last year. It also a habit of reminding ourselves to review our giving. But this centenary year offers us the golden opportunity to reflect on the quality of our emerging vision for the next decade and even century. This will eventually take a more concrete and pragmatic expression in our developing Mission Action Plan – a road map if you like. The PCC and Ministry Team, together with ongoing feedback from you have been working hard on discerning and distilling a way forward, listening to the promptings of Jesus Christ. We will meet for an away day in November which will be exclusively focused on mission planning. In January during Epiphanytide – the season in which the church celebrates the spreading of the good news in the world at large – we will refine and then launch that plan. Today, let us reflect together on what it means to be a local church with an authentic Christian vision – a Christian community persevering to live out and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ for the next generation.  

At the Willesden Clergy Conference from which Deacon Jill and I have just returned, the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, outlined four attributes of the church’s calling. They are abundance, humility, hope and audacity. All four of these are echoed in the encounter between the risen Jesus and the disciples on the beach in John 21. All four are ways of making explicit the unspoken vision we have for our local church and indeed our world – because for Christians the two are inextricably connected. 


“…they were not able to haul …in (the net) because there were so many fish.” (John 21:6)

We could translate abundance to mean generous blessing or even the gift of resources.

(Write down) Where do you experience abundance or blessing in your own life? Where do you experience abundance in the life of our church?

So often in the church we begin by focusing on scarcity rather than the generous provision we already enjoy. This is a habit that has sadly taken hold of us at St Barnabas at times. By pointing this out, I am not trying to minimise the pain we have been through in our recent past nor I am suggesting that we should take proper management lightly, financial or otherwise. Both would be a simplistic denial of our reality and our calling. However, our instincts are more often than not fine tuned to what we don’t have or to an anxious prediction of what might happen rather than on what we do have and are being given. The latter is a springboard for a future, the former is a script for a depressing self-fulfilling prophecy. If we are obsessed with our lack could we hear the voice of the saviour saying “cast your nets to the right hand side”, would we be even willing to take the risk?

The time has come to acknowledge and to celebrate that we are a very blessed parish church – blessed in finances, blessed in the gifts, talents and generosity of our people, blessed by our location and community. Thanks be to God.

I am delighted to be able to celebrate with you this morning that we have finally paid off our organ loan. Thanks must go to the perseverance and hard work of Hugh Mather and the generosity of all those who have supported this project. As a result of this, I am also delighted to celebrate with you that we will not only return to paying full common fund in 2017 but will be able to give in excess of it. We are once again a net contributor to the mission of the Diocese of London. 

If we are co-operating with Christ to build his church, we should be patiently expecting his generous provision but if we convince ourselves that we know best, that we are going to charge of this, then we have chosen to take the place of our Saviour.  Our calling is about perseverance not preservation.


“Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” (John 21: 4- 5)

If we find our identity as the church in the resurrected Christ then he will draw us into confronting the stark reality of our situation and then in response to it, lead and share with us in the ordinary service of love. In this way we participate in the kingdom of the servant king. Humility of heart and mind and purpose.

Jesus does not make a dramatic entry into this scene as a hero figure, the proverbial knight in shining armour; he stands on the beach and simply meets the disciples in the midst of their situation before guiding towards the future he as prepared for them to share in. 

While we have much to celebrate and give thanks for at St Barnabas we too need Christ to keep us mindful of the absolute reality of our situation. The percentage of people attending Church of England parishes dropped below 2% of the population this year but the national census in 2011 showed that 59% of population identify as Christian. What are we doing to grow and nurture the next generation of Christians in this part of West London? This church like many others, relies heavily on the generous time and talents of many older or retired people. What are we doing to raise up the next generation of lay leaders in our parish? We recently received the results of a 5 yearly buildings inspection report from the Diocese. Whilst our buildings are in good condition, the report showed that including the restoration of the apse painting and a host of various smaller works a sum of approximately £180000 should be spent in the next 5 years. How can we responsibly maintain, enhance and evolve our physical plant – these buildings – to enable our witness and mission? Every year we host the night shelter for six weeks. How are we serving our local community in ways that aren’t just recreational but also transformational? How are we allowing the local community to serve us?

(Write down) Can you think of a time you were touched by another’s humility?  Can you name one way that we have succeeded and one way that we have failed to be humble as a Christian community?


 “That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ “ (John 21:7)

An opinion piece on the rising crisis of human isolation this week reminded me about the state of suffering in our world. Written by George Monbiot, it lays the blame for our current social pathologies (plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness) at the feet of neo-liberalism. He says pointedly: “Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.” By “everywhere” he means government, the education system, the jobs market and the media.

The question for us is: do we really believe that the local church is good news for our neighbours? You see, whilst I applaud Monbiot’s passion for pointing out the alienation exacerbated by particular political or economic ideologies, the answer to the deep ache of loneliness so prevalent throughout human society is not simply more or even differing systems of ideas. To echo the reaction of the apostle John on the beach, “It is the Lord!” Are we a sacramental community that proclaims and reflects the joy of that recognition because we know that in the presence of the risen Christ peace, healing and flourishing for all creation is unfolding? In other words, do we dare to be a people of resurrection hope? This is not optimism or wishful thinking but witnessing to the resilience of the crucified and risen Christ standing in the midst of our suffering and despair. Do we dare to persevere for a future that is not already evident?

(Write down) What is one way that the church is good news for our local neighbourhoods? Where have you found signs of hope in your daily life?


“So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.” John 21:12

To quote the Bishop of London, “there is far too little ambition in the Church of England.” If we belong to the risen Christ, the one who is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end why are we frequently so introverted and timid about his kingdom? Can we dare to dream big dreams for God or more to the point could we imagine that God in Christ is using us to fulfill ambitious things for his kingdom?

“The Spirit of God comes to us from the future,” says theologian Ray Anderson. Like the disciples on the beach, we cannot fully see the future in God’s terms, we may not even think there’s one at times and this can paralyze us. We pray “Your kingdom come”, not ours. With that conviction in our hearts and listening for the cues from one who is eternally present in all time, we cast out the nets expecting to be surprised and sometimes even astonished.

(Write down) How can we be ambitious and confident for the God’s kingdom in our neighbourhood? Has God been nudging you to take a particular risk even though you can’t see the future?

For us at St Barnabas, we have seen how God has already been at work through a spirit of unexpected hospitality and we should be audaciously expectant about this work of the Holy Spirit in the years to come. On the beach, Jesus takes the fish the disciples have caught and then shares a meal with them. They are guided, welcomed, blessed and fed for the work ahead. So may it be for us.

The people of God are not called to preservation but perseverance in the things of God. A local church that sets its gaze on the risen Christ and reminds itself constantly that it belongs to him, calling itself back to that cosmic identity and salvation cannot help but be good news for the world.

In a sermon given on the night before he was assassinated Martin Luther King Jr said the following:

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

“Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.” (John 21:4-6)

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.



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