FR JULIAN'S WEEKLY BLOG
I have just returned from a wonderful two weeks in the south of France. Amongst the many things to do and see, Jane I took the chance to visit churches. The local parish church where we were staying, not surprisingly, did not have a mass every Sunday. However, I was a little taken aback on visiting it in the first week of September to find the next mass wasn’t until 4 November. There was no evidence of lay-led services in the church before then either. Even in towns, large parish churches would not have a service every Sunday. One parish described itself as forming the majority of a former diocese; there was a parish of 75 churches served by a single priest.
We complain – and about most things as we get older! Change is rarely seen as being for the better, and past was always better. Not true. However, we in this diocese, are facing an acute cash crisis which affects us all. We are also faced with the reduction of paid clergy posts, partly due to cost, but also ordinations are not matching those leaving paid ministry. I do not believe God is calling less people as ministers, lay or ordained, but maybe fewer are aware or willing to consider any call. Often I hear people complaining that ‘they’ have closed their church. That’s never true. They themselves have closed their church by not using it, and not serving God through it.
Thursday this week sees the feast day of St Matthew. He was one of Jesus 12 disciples, and wasn’t a fisherman, but rather a tax collector. Tax collectors weren’t the most popular people in Jesus’ time as the taxes they collected were for the hated Roman invaders, and the collectors always lined their own pockets. No wonder after scribes and Pharisees, those most reviled people in the gospels were ‘tax collectors and sinners’. There have been a few tax collectors in Holy Trinity’s congregation over the years, and I’ve always inwardly winced if I read a gospel referring to them in an unsympathetic way!
We’ve all got jobs to do, be they paid, voluntarily or out of love. It can be a way of disguising how we do them by becoming ‘jobsworths’, with no discrimination, no flexibility and no compassion. Playing it squarely by the rules – getting into no trouble, neither making any friends either. It is an easier option just to stick your head down and get on with it, but to paraphrase St Paul, writing to the Corinthians, let all our doings be done in love. We might argue about the meaning of ‘love’, but I think if we stick to ‘compassion’ we won’t go far wrong. Are all OUR doings done in compassion?