Minster Office: 0191 565 4066

Archive for January 2014

World Record Attempt – “Marriage Week UK, 7th-14th February 2014”

big promise

As part of Marriage Week, Sunderland Minster is taking part in a nationwide attempt to set a new world record for couples reaffirming their wedding vows. The attempt is organized by the BIG Promise, an initiative committed to celebrating, supporting and strengthening marriage.

The Minster is the only church in our region taking part.

On Saturday 8th February, couples will be invited to reaffirm their vows before enjoying afternoon tea and light entertainment as we celebrate marriage together. The event begins at 5.00pm, with vow renewal at 5.15pm.

The current world record stands at 1,087 couples. In order to count as record breakers, couples will need to bring their wedding certificate and one other form of photo I/D.

All enquiries to Sunderland Minster office, 0191 565 4066.

 

Canon Sheila’s Blog

sheila bI’m still haunted by the images of the massacre of the innocents that we saw at the Chora church in Istanbul in October.  A series of mosaics created in the late 1300s showing Herod’s audience with the wise men, and then graphic scenes of infants being hunted out and killed by soldiers – little boys speared, torn from their mothers, trampled on, killed by the sword.   A group of mothers grieving, Elizabeth and the infant John pursued by a solider wielding a sword, the Holy Family back on the donkey again, refugees – not going home, but fleeing to Egypt.

The whole image was reinforced for me when I heard about the bombs in a Christian area of Bagdad on Christmas Day – for many Christians going to church this Christmas has been an act of life-risking bravery.  A report from the Oxford research group published in November tells of more than 1000 children who’d been deliberately killed in Syria – and that 112, including infants, were tortured first.  Or a report in the Guardian from the father of a four year old boy in the Central African Republic who said ‘They started to attack my son.  They tried to shoot him, but the gun was not working. So they slit his throat instead. What threat does this child pose?’

Attacks on children wound our deepest hearts.  Because they are innocent, and vulnerable.  Because they represent the future – no children, no hope – which is one of the reasons why childlessness is so very painful for many people.  Because we invest such a lot in them, physically and emotionally.   Attacking our children really hits us where it hurts, inflicting the deepest wounds on individuals, families and communities.   It plays on our fears, brings out all our defences, draws on our protective instincts.  Right from the beginning, the baby Jesus was under attack, as vulnerable as any other small child. And the horrific thing about Herod is that this is just another attack, something that people had come to expect and not a particularly extraordinary act at all.  Part of the daily round of violence and oppression – just like in Syria, or Central Africa, or South Sudan – yesterday and today.

Standing at the back of the Cathedral on Christmas Eve, after an amazingly uplifting service of nine lessons and carols, I fell into a conversation with a group of people who were talking about the persecution of Christians in Syria.  Those with direct experience from the region were angry that the situation was being ignored – they talked about Christian families being attacked at weddings, and firebombs, and their feeling that this stuff was not being systematically reported because of a kind of political correctness – attacks on Christians are not the same kind of news as attacks on other religious groups.  Contrast that with the Archbishop of Canterbury who is being extraordinarily cautious, some think, about speaking out on the issues.   He seems to be taking a long view of history – right back to the massacre of the innocents you might say – where persecution for Christians has been the order of the day for over 2000 years and this might not be the worst its ever been.  In a pragmatic statement in the Church Times this week he says:  ‘nothing can be done until people are willing to let something happen.  If people want to fight, they fight. When both sides think they can win, they will go on fighting.’

So – it’s a waiting game. And what do we do when we wait – we pray.  We pray that God will strengthen and sustain those facing persecution.  We pray that we may be watchful for God’s intervention in the life of his persecuted people, and ready to act when the opportunity arises to make a difference.  We pray that we may be faithful in prayer, in giving aid, in being watchful.  Because it is so easy to forget – there is so much to do here at home, here in Sunderland, here in the UK that our persecuted neighbours, fellow members of the body of Christ in pain, are easily anesthetised, forgotten, lost sight of.

For the holy family it was a waiting game – God warned Joseph in a dream to get out of Herod’s way, and Joseph was wise enough to listen, and to act with commendable speed.  And then when the threat was mitigated, to listen to God again and move back to Nazareth.  This is Joseph doing what he could to protect a young life exposed to suffering right from the outset.  A life that could only be, and become, perfect because of being immersed in the suffering of the world.  Could only bring hope because the resurrection happened in the context of the violent cruelty and injustice of the cross.  It’s a long game – but God is faithful, and calls us to faithfulness in our own generation.

If this hadn’t been a sermon about the massacre of the innocents, it might have been a sermon about Joseph – faithful, pragmatic, kind – and I might have used the Christmas poem by U A Fanthorpe called ‘Joseph’ as a starting point.  That includes the lines

I am Joseph who wanted
To teach my own boy how to live.
My lesson for my foster son:
Endure. Love. Give.

Which is maybe God’s lesson for all Christians today – each of us here in Sunderland, and across the world, risking life to gather together as the body of Christ.  Endure. Love.  Give.

We can’t do much for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Syria and other places right now.  But we can pray – and keep on praying, faithfully, day by day.  Enduring in prayer, whatever the distractions.  Because we love, and because just now this is the very best we can give.   We’ll keep a candle alight in the Minster from now until February 2nd (the end of the season of Epiphany), and I invite you to join us in prayer each day through this season of Epiphany, for the persecuted Christians of the world.  We pray for peace on earth and goodwill to all – which isn’t exactly how it is for many this Christmas – as yet again we remember that God shows us the infinite possibility of love revealed in an innocent child.  You might like to use this prayer from the Church of England:

O Lord God,

your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.

In his resurrection

he restores life and peace in all creation.

Comfort, we pray, all victims of intolerance

and those oppressed by their fellow humans.

Remember in your kingdom those who have died.

Lead the oppressors towards compassion

and give hope to the suffering.

Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

I’m still haunted by the images of the massacre of the innocents that we saw at the Chora church in Istanbul in October.  A series of mosaics created in the late 1300s showing Herod’s audience with the wise men, and then graphic scenes of infants being hunted out and killed by soldiers – little boys speared, torn from their mothers, trampled on, killed by the sword.   A group of mothers grieving, Elizabeth and the infant John pursued by a solider wielding a sword, the Holy Family back on the donkey again, refugees – not going home, but fleeing to Egypt.

The whole image was reinforced for me when I heard about the bombs in a Christian area of Bagdad on Christmas Day – for many Christians going to church this Christmas has been an act of life-risking bravery.  A report from the Oxford research group published in November tells of more than 1000 children who’d been deliberately killed in Syria – and that 112, including infants, were tortured first.  Or a report in the Guardian from the father of a four year old boy in the Central African Republic who said ‘They started to attack my son.  They tried to shoot him, but the gun was not working. So they slit his throat instead. What threat does this child pose?’

Attacks on children wound our deepest hearts.  Because they are innocent, and vulnerable.  Because they represent the future – no children, no hope – which is one of the reasons why childlessness is so very painful for many people.  Because we invest such a lot in them, physically and emotionally.   Attacking our children really hits us where it hurts, inflicting the deepest wounds on individuals, families and communities.   It plays on our fears, brings out all our defences, draws on our protective instincts.  Right from the beginning, the baby Jesus was under attack, as vulnerable as any other small child. And the horrific thing about Herod is that this is just another attack, something that people had come to expect and not a particularly extraordinary act at all.  Part of the daily round of violence and oppression – just like in Syria, or Central Africa, or South Sudan – yesterday and today.

Standing at the back of the Cathedral on Christmas Eve, after an amazingly uplifting service of nine lessons and carols, I fell into a conversation with a group of people who were talking about the persecution of Christians in Syria.  Those with direct experience from the region were angry that the situation was being ignored – they talked about Christian families being attacked at weddings, and firebombs, and their feeling that this stuff was not being systematically reported because of a kind of political correctness – attacks on Christians are not the same kind of news as attacks on other religious groups.  Contrast that with the Archbishop of Canterbury who is being extraordinarily cautious, some think, about speaking out on the issues.   He seems to be taking a long view of history – right back to the massacre of the innocents you might say – where persecution for Christians has been the order of the day for over 2000 years and this might not be the worst its ever been.  In a pragmatic statement in the Church Times this week he says:  ‘nothing can be done until people are willing to let something happen.  If people want to fight, they fight. When both sides think they can win, they will go on fighting.’

So – it’s a waiting game. And what do we do when we wait – we pray.  We pray that God will strengthen and sustain those facing persecution.  We pray that we may be watchful for God’s intervention in the life of his persecuted people, and ready to act when the opportunity arises to make a difference.  We pray that we may be faithful in prayer, in giving aid, in being watchful.  Because it is so easy to forget – there is so much to do here at home, here in Sunderland, here in the UK that our persecuted neighbours, fellow members of the body of Christ in pain, are easily anesthetised, forgotten, lost sight of.

For the holy family it was a waiting game – God warned Joseph in a dream to get out of Herod’s way, and Joseph was wise enough to listen, and to act with commendable speed.  And then when the threat was mitigated, to listen to God again and move back to Nazareth.  This is Joseph doing what he could to protect a young life exposed to suffering right from the outset.  A life that could only be, and become, perfect because of being immersed in the suffering of the world.  Could only bring hope because the resurrection happened in the context of the violent cruelty and injustice of the cross.  It’s a long game – but God is faithful, and calls us to faithfulness in our own generation.

If this hadn’t been a sermon about the massacre of the innocents, it might have been a sermon about Joseph – faithful, pragmatic, kind – and I might have used the Christmas poem by U A Fanthorpe called ‘Joseph’ as a starting point.  That includes the lines

I am Joseph who wanted
To teach my own boy how to live.
My lesson for my foster son:
Endure. Love. Give.

Which is maybe God’s lesson for all Christians today – each of us here in Sunderland, and across the world, risking life to gather together as the body of Christ.  Endure. Love.  Give.

We can’t do much for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Syria and other places right now.  But we can pray – and keep on praying, faithfully, day by day.  Enduring in prayer, whatever the distractions.  Because we love, and because just now this is the very best we can give.   We’ll keep a candle alight in the Minster from now until February 2nd (the end of the season of Epiphany), and I invite you to join us in prayer each day through this season of Epiphany, for the persecuted Christians of the world.  We pray for peace on earth and goodwill to all – which isn’t exactly how it is for many this Christmas – as yet again we remember that God shows us the infinite possibility of love revealed in an innocent child.  You might like to use this prayer from the Church of England:

O Lord God,

your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.

In his resurrection

he restores life and peace in all creation.

Comfort, we pray, all victims of intolerance

and those oppressed by their fellow humans.

Remember in your kingdom those who have died.

Lead the oppressors towards compassion

and give hope to the suffering.

Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE MINSTER TEAM

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