Reverend Rob Lamerton
29 February 2004, Lent 1
This year our Annual General Meeting occurs on the First Sunday of Lent. The gospel reading is the story of Jesus led by the Spirit into the wilderness and the forty days of temptation. The temptations for Jesus are: a. To be distracted from the quest to discover his true calling and tend to his own needs in making bread from the stones. b. To be deceived into worshipping the enemy for the gain of wealth and power and c. To doubt God and put God to the test by doing something really dramatic.
All of these are important in our personal faith and in our membership of this community of faith at St Philip's. We can be tempted by a whole lot of things to abandon our quest to be the children of God especially when the going is tough. Like Jesus we can be tempted to look after ourselves forgetting that on the journey of faith our needs will be met. We can become self-sufficient rather than being God dependent!
We can also become so besotted with wealth and power that we are deceived. The devil here is diabolos meaning deceiver or slanderer from which we get the word diabolical. Here and in our lives the devil is the one who deceives us about God. Not that wealth and power are evil in them selves but in the striving and grasping we can lose sight of more important things and life gets out of balance and the devil really wins the day.
The third temptation is about doing the grand stunt to put God's love to the test and to win the crowds. Such stunts however are not what faith is about! Such stunts are calling on God to act to overcome our doubt. Instead Jesus points us towards an even harder road — continued faithfulness to God in all the events of life.
We can become self-assured and self-sufficient ìmanaging the churchî at the expense discerning our calling as the people of God at St Philip's. This is really about our journey in prayer. We must never lose that sense of being in the wilderness and finding our way! We can also look for 'success' in terms of our finances and property and be distracted from of our main purpose of worship and service. Surely if we have things in the right order the resources we need will be available. Let us not be deceived! Finally, there is always the temptation to find the quick fix or the grand event to attract crowds and impress God and deal with our own doubt! Fortunately we know that such things are not necessarily the way our faith is expressed. Instead we are called to a less spectacular and often ordinary path building faith and confidence in God and each other.
Our present parish family is quite different from a few years ago as we have said farewell to some and welcomed others. The most noticeable thing about St Philip's is the number of young families, new babies and with more expected! We are called and maybe this is the challenge God has for us! How do we effectively incorporate more and more young families and children into the life of St Philip's. Things are very different from the days of my childhood when we were expected to sit still and listen! Worship and other parish activities need to be family and children friendly (user friendly) for us to encourage this wonderful family atmosphere.
I am not in favour of taking children out of church for activities. Instead I believe it is best to integrate their learning into our regular worship and as they grow help them move into the different levels of participation. This overcomes the sense of separation, which seems to have occurred in the Sunday School model and maintains the extended family sense of worship. We will be discussing some possibilities at a family Barbecue on 14th March.
The issue of Child Protection has been topical in the ACT for a while now. The Anglican Church in this Diocese has been taking a lead in establishing a program for children's and youth workers and workshops are held regularly. As Area Dean I am responsible for providing workshops for the parishes of central Canberra. We have been asked to establish a Child Protection Policy for St Philip's and to have in place our own trainers. Janine Studholme has indicated that she would be willing to be a trainer/presenter but it would be a blessing to have one or two others. Even if people have been trained in another professional area it is necessary to do the church course so that the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn can vouch for all its workers. ALL CLERGY actively working or assisting or even doing relief work are expected to have had a police check and to have attended a Child Protection Workshop and to upgrade their awareness of the issues every couple of years. To avoid this subject puts at risk the safety of young people and duty of care we have, it opens us up to prosecution and endangers the fabric of the church as a safe place to be.
We must give thanks for the ministry of Rebecca Newland and for the friendship of David Grice her husband. Rebecca's ministry at the parish camp in her thoughtful sermons and liturgical leadership as well as her pastoral care showed that she is indeed a good candidate for ordination. Some of us were able to attend her 'deaconing' and we as a parish gave her a red stole to celebrate. We wish Rebecca well in her new role.
Of the people we have farewelled we must acknowledge Tony and Janet Brian-Davis. After coming from a Baptist background Tony was received into the Anglican Church and became a Synod Rep. Janet was also a wonderful worker in the background maintaining the children's activity boxes as well as being a caring and hospitable member of the Wednesday congregation. Both Janet and Tony followed on from Jean Pound in organizing the Morning Tea Roster.
We will soon be saying farewell to David and Beryl Gowty (yet again!) as they head to New Caledonia where David takes up a new posting. David and Beryl you will be missed.
I mentioned last year that I was hoping for further consolidation of the parish. I think that is happening and the new faces blending with the faithful of many years are an indication
There are those who sadly for us have gone forward into the Light of God, Ted Moore and Peter Blaseotto. Ted (father of Robin) a member of St Philip's in years gone by and great supporter of the Northbourne Community Centre ministry, and Peter a part of the St Philip's family via Beryl. Evan Burge also passed from this world in Melbourne. Evan had been a founding member of this parish and after ordination became a leader of the Liturgical Committee of the Anglican Church of Australia. Memorial candle stands have been made in memory of Bruce Holgate and Marge Wright. The one for Bruce was dedicated on Christmas Eve 2003 while the on for Marge will be dedicated before Easter 2004.
I am grateful for the ministry of Jeannette McHugh who has filled in admirably in my absences and is a good colleague when I am here. I look forward to her continued presence among us. Our newly licensed Lay Ministers Stephen Billett, Chris Cheah and Elizabeth Allinson are proving their value and are becoming more and more confident in preparing and leading worship. Chris is also setting a high standard of preaching!
Recently Devin Combs Bowles approached me and expressed a call to ordination. Along with a mountain of reading matter I have given him I have also asked if he would be licensed as a Lay Minister to assist at the Eucharist.
I have read the Si Quis and trust that his appointment will proceed as quickly as possible. Please pray for Devin and Phoebe as Devin follows the possibilities of this calling.
Whilst on the subject of leadership in our worship we do need to add to the number of those who assist by serving in the sanctuary. While it is always good to have young people (6-7years and up) learning the task we really do need more adults and we also need more appropriate white cassocks for those who serve.
St Philip's continues to have a connection to the chaplaincy at the Australian National University through my membership of the board and my participation in the chaplaincy team. We are still seeking people to serve on the team of Christian chaplains while at the same time there has been a definite change to the formation of a multi faith team. We still have a number of people in St Philip's who are on the staff or are students at ANU and Canberra University.
Recently we have been asked if St Philip's could take over the coordination of the Calvary Hospital Anglican chaplaincy team. I have indicated that we would, because we already have responsibility for one Sunday's service and I am on the ìon callî roster. I also know what is required as well as being less than ten minutes drive from the hospital. We are yet to get a detailed job description however I think it would be a good ministry. There is an annual allowance of $10,000 for the management of the chaplaincy.
One thing which was reinstated into the Parish Calendar in 2003 was the parish camp held over the weekend of 22/23rd March. It was a great success in bringing people together and helping build relationships and under Rebecca Newland's guidance we looked at what we valued about our St Philip's family. None of us will ever forget the Saturday evening with Quizmasters Leighton and Ruth! Unfortunately the camp this year is in doubt because we have not received enough bookings. We need your response in the next few days to know if it will be a goer or not!
Pandora's at O'Connor has been a wonderful connection into the local community as well as raising funds for improvements to our buildings and property. I am really grateful to Sandy and the friendly staff who give such a welcome to all who visit.
The reporting of Pandora's income each week has probably given us a false sense of financial security because it looks like it is part of general funds. It is not money for the general running expenses of the parish but set aside for capital improvements. In fact we had a deficit in funds for 2003 largely because we were behind in our mission commitments (which we have now brought up to date) and some large unexpected maintenance items. These were: repairs to the rectory bathroom, replacement of the hot water service, replacement of the washing machine and replacement of the switchboard in the Parish Hall.
Better planning has enabled us to this year to identify projects and provide for them in the budget rather than being surprised by emergency repairs.
Giving through the Envelopes and Electronic Funds Transfer system actually exceeded expectations in 2003. Thanks to all who continue to give to maintain the ministry of St Philip's.
Each year we commit ourselves to give from our parish income to four projects: the Toungoo Clean Water Project in Burma (Myanmar) $1,000; the Mogo Aboriginal Ministry of Tom and Muriel Slockee at Mogo (near Bateman's Bay) $1,000; Nungalinya College an ecumenical training college for aboriginal leaders in Darwin; and our own St Philip's Care Monday lunch program at the Northbourne Community Centre $500. So about 5% of your giving to St Philip's will be passed on to these very worthwhile mission causes.
The Parish Council continues to be a friendly and faithful group with the interests of St Philip's at heart. I am grateful to the outgoing wardens Elizabeth Allinson, Denise Manley and Dimitri Markotsis, and Parish Councillors Ruth McGorman-Mann, Janet Brian-Davis Ian Cousins, Sarah Gowty and Beryl Blaseotto who resigned from Parish Council earlier due to Peter's illness.
Chris Cheah is my Rector's Warden for 2004 and Janine Studholme People's Warden. We have a warden vacancy! Parish Councillors are Shane Woodburn, Ben Dyer (my nominations) Pat Forbes, Jeannette McHugh and Leighton Mann. Janet Brian-Davis's position will need to be filled as will the vacancy among the Synod Reps.
At this Annual General Meeting I would like us to discuss the practicalities of the administration of Holy Communion especially the value of the intinction or dipping cup. The introduction of the extra cup adds a level of confusion to the administration and having three cups looks to me to be overdone. I mentioned some of the practical health and theological issues in the pewsheet a couple of weeks ago and would like us to resolve the most appropriate way of the administration.
The 8.00am Eucharist remains a said service and I know some people like it that way. With some additions to the readers roster and to the Lay Readers we have the opportunity for some variation. 8.00am and Wednesday at 10.00 should not be seen as inferior, just different and offering a quieter alternative.
Sunday's 10.00am Eucharist is no doubt our 'main service' and maybe we have to thank Chris Cheah for proposing the change to 10.00am from 9.30am because the number of families with children has definitely increased. We do have some difficulty with our 10.00am start with few in church and lots going on in the porch. Can we please work on making that few minutes before 10.00am a time for quiet and prayer. The Introit or first hymn then leads us into the worship and sets the scene. Please respect that some people will be quietly at prayer and we should resist the temptation to speak too loudly.
I would like this year to have a preparation for Holy Communion for the very young as well as those of school age. The first might be a brief session one Sunday or afternoon. The older group will need a few weeks and work through a study program just to give a deeper understanding.
This week on Ash Wednesday we began the season of Lent. Some will no doubt think this is an old fashioned waste of time! Lent however gives us a framework for rethinking our faith before we come to the events of the crucifixion and Easter resurrection. Just as Jesus begins a time in the wilderness wrestling with his calling, so too do we. Distraction, Deceit and Doubt, come to us all but in Lent we are challenged to name them for what they are and to follow the path of prayer and repentance, fasting from the things which dominate us, showing kindness and generosity.
I look forward to another year as we grow together in the St Philip's family.