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Vicar's Musings for St Peter's Day

30 June, 2013

If you are a visitor to St Peter's Eastern Hill for the first time, or a returning friend of the parish, we extend a very warm welcome to you on this day of our Patronal Festival. We are blessed to have as our guest preacher this morning the Rt Rev'd John Parkes AM, bishop of Wangaratta. I first encountered Bishop John, soon after arriving in Australia, through his writing. A friend sent me a paper that Bishop John had delivered to the Society of Catholic Priests in 2009 entitled: "Catholic Evangelism." A very topical theme for the parish of St Peter's at the moment. In his paper Bishop John calls for reform in the Anglican Catholic tradition: "the only thing to do is to take a leap of faith, a jump into the unknown of the possibilities of God. But this must be done simply and sincerely in the very heart of Christian community. Again, we need no noisy martyrs, no prima donnas for the kingdom, but the Catholic tradition must reform itself in a new sacramental awareness that speaks to the world and its present need."

Reform is a pretty big ask. We can probably all see things that need to change, but how do we move past comment into making a real difference? Bishop John goes on to quote the great Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple: "It is rather agreeable than otherwise to expand the mind by contemplation of an eternal purpose, and there is perhaps a certain amount of thrill and glamour about the conception of the age-long purpose of God now to be wrought out through His Church. But when it comes to what we can do ourselves, it always seems so little, as, of course, it is. What each one alone can do is always very little, but the way great things are done is by all doing that very little unitedly. And it is the test of our sincerity whether we are ready to do the little things in our power — the things that have not about them a great thrill and glamour, the things that are rather dull, the things we can only do, if we do them at all, because we are genuinely loyal and because we have a purpose that is firmly set, because we have a firm determination to serve Christ as we have the opportunity."

It is very fitting indeed that Bishop John is here today. He sowed a seed in the heart of a school chaplain four years ago, a vision of Catholic Evangelism, and here we are now, about to launch a two-year Catholic Evangelism programme at St Peter's Eastern Hill. Is Anglo-Catholic reform and renewal in the air? Well, that probably depends on the preparedness of us all to do William Temple's "very little unitedly." And ultimately that will depend on God's Spirit and our openness to her; but I'm optimistic!

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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