Revd Ray Williamson
17th February 2009
I had known of St Philip's for a long time. Its reputation had gone before it! I knew of the parish particularly through George Garnsey, who frequently spoke also about his earlier time here during the ministry of Doug Hobson. It clearly seemed to be a parish with a fine reputation with a strong impact on many people and the wider community. Then my awareness of the parish continued when a former student, Rob Lamerton, became the Rector, and I had contact with him on several occasions. I never imagined, of course, that there would come a time when I would have a close association with the parish, least of all in my current role, as a result of Rob's tragic illness and death. However, in spite of the sad circumstances that brought me here, I felt it was very providential that my own situation made it possible for me to step into this role, and it is a privilege to share with you in the worship and ministry of this parish, at least for awhile.
A time of interregnum is a time for looking back. The looking back for this parish at the moment will be filled with much sorrow because of the untimely loss of a pastor and friend. It will be filled with memories of Rob's ministry among you: his faithful and gentle care as your pastor, his devoted preaching and presiding at the sacraments as your priest, and his presence with you as a friend. So, the looking back will also be filled with thankfulness for the years that Rob and Sandy and their family have been a part of your lives, for the ministry they have shared with you, all they did in seeking to build up the life of this congregation.
The looking back at an Annual Meeting also involves a review of the past year. Much of what happened in the parish during those twelve months is reflected in the reports that you have already received, and I will not comment further, except to say that we are grateful to those who have contributed so much to the life of the parish as it is recorded in those reports—and others not recorded in the reports, such as the many things that individuals do in caring for the church and in caring for one another.
It is an appropriate time for some looking back. The community memory is extremely important in shaping us now and into the future: so it essential to look back at the past and to rejoice in the history, especially the immediate history, of this parish community.
However, a time of interregnum is not just a time for looking back, it is in many ways also a time of waiting. But we know that it can be a time of uncertainty as well. But to say that is not to make it sound like a negative and dormant time. On the contrary!
What we are on about in preparing for this Annual Meeting—and during this interregnum—is not just a looking-back. We must also look forward; and when we do that, there is much to excite us and to challenge us, and to arouse a sense of confidence and hope.
So, an interregnum is about looking back, and looking forward. But it is an appropriate time also for pausing, for reflecting, for renewing our identity, for reinforcing the foundation on which we are built as a community of faith.
That foundation is Jesus. Yet, to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is only meaningful in so far as we try to live as he lived and to order our lives according to his values. In the gospels we see him as the uniquely liberated man, uniquely courageous, fearless, independent, hopeful and truthful.
Why was he such a person?
At the heart of Jesus' mysterious personality there was a unique experience of intimate closeness with God—the Abba-experience.
Jesus experienced the mysterious creative power behind all phenomena (God) as compassion or love. For Jesus, it was God's feeling of compassion that possessed him and filled him. All his convictions, his faith and his hope were expressions of this fundamental experience. If God is compassionate, then goodness will triumph over evil; the impossible will happen and there is hope for humankind. Faith and hope are the experience of God as compassion.
We are called to be the kind of community in/through which each one of us can grow/mature into being faithful disciples of Jesus—and so make him attractive to others.
So, the interregnum is not a dormant time, but hopefully a time of growing in discipleship –maturing in Christ—through our worship of God and our life together. I will count it a privilege of we can do that together, for a time.