Fr Richard: Final Pew Thoughts for St Mary, Lewisham
My dear friends,
This is the last Pew Thought I will write for St Mary, Lewisham. Although I have been part of the staff here for only three years they have been very important years for me. As you will know Headship is a stressful and demanding job and being part of this community here has been an enormous help to me. The friendship and love you have shown us has been remarkable. I have learned and gained so much from you all, so much more than I have been able to offer you.
Working as part of a team has been one of the great joys here. The team of priests, Fr Steve, Fr David and I balance each other wonderfully and it has always been a delight to be with them, I know that they will both, with Rona and Claire be friends for life.
The wider team with our Readers, SPAs, Churchwardens and all who hold roles here at St Mary’s is also always a delight. What a great place to be.
I have loved living and working in lewisham and will always have a place in my soul that is Lewisham shaped. May Our lady of Lewisham pray for all of us who live or have lived here.
In one of those little miracles the first reading today at my final Mass as a staff member here is the passage from Genesis 18 which inspired Andrei Rublev to paint the icon of the Trinity that has been at the heart of work at school. The passage goes on longer than the section we will heard read, the following verses are:
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard[c] for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
I love this account of laughter in the Bible and we are going to sing two hymns today written by United Reformed Church minister John Campbell about this passage.
Laughter is such an enormous part of life and laughter is never very far from our conversations here at St Mary’s after Mass or at one of our social events. Laughter, when it is genuine is deeply attractive.
The point of the passage from Genesis is that Abraham and Sarah are to become the parents of Israel, the chosen people, their descendants will be many and include in the world today the three great Abrahamic faiths, Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
We are called as Christians to show the attractiveness of life in Jesus Christ and to ‘multiply’ by bringing many to faith. There are huge questions in our society about why Christianity is not attractive to many people. Because we are a relatively big congregation, and because we have many families and children it is easy for us to forget that the Church is in rapid decline, easy to forget that many of our young people, probably most, stop coming to church as soon as they are old enough to make that decision for themselves.
This is a question I will carry with me to Liverpool and my new job as Director of Education. With 33,000 children in 119 schools in Liverpool how can we make Christianity so attractive, as attractive as the sound of laughter, that the young people want to know Jesus and come to love him?
I will pray for St Mary’s, pray for your growth in numbers and in holiness and I hope very much that we will stay in touch and remain friends in the year’s ahead. I know that under Fr Steve’s leadership you have a great future. Please pray for us as we move north and for the new opportunities and challenges it will bring.
With my love and prayers,