Vicar's Letter

February 2017

Dear Friends,

I’ve never been particularly fussy about how I’m addressed. I’ll happily answer to ‘Michael,’ ‘Vicar,’ ‘Father Michael’ or ‘Mr. Champneys,’ though I prefer not be called ‘Reverend.’ Crockford’s Clerical Directory rather pompously decrees that ‘Reverend’ should never be used this side of the Atlantic without the definite article and a Christian name or initial! ‘Your Reverence’, which always reminds me of the verger in Dad’s Army, is not given as an alternative – but it can hardly fail to raise a smile.

Such niceties of etiquette have always fascinated the Hyacinth Bouquets of this world, and most people like to get them right if they can. But whereas they’re of no great consequence, reverence itself does matter.

According to the Prayer Book catechism, learnt by heart by many generations of children, part of’ ‘my duty towards my neighbour’ is ‘to order myself lowly and reverently to all my betters.’ The trouble with that is that it reduces reverence to deference. Of course there’s no denying the value of good manners, but to give the impression that reverence is principally due to

January 2017

Dear Friends,

The start of a new year makes us more conscious than usual of the passage of time – increasingly rapid as we get older - and that “man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live.” Few of us looking back over the last year would claim to have made the best possible use of it. Hence the practice of making New Year resolutions. I don’t go in for them, and not just because they’re usually so quickly broken that they make little difference. To me they smack rather too much of Pelagianism, that very British heresy which claims that we can become the good people we aspire to be simply by exerting our wills.

Samuel Johnson, a truly great Englishman, took a different approach. He acknowledged his need of God’s grace. And so, almost every year from 1745 to the end of life, having seen the New Year in and before going to bed he wrote a prayer for himself. He composed this one on January 1st 1773:

“Almighty God, by whose mercy my life has been yet prolonged to another year, grant that thy mercy may not be in vain. Let not my years be multiplied to encrease (sic) my guilt, but as age advances, let me become more pure in my thoughts, more regular in my desires, and more obedient to thy laws. Let not the cares of the world distract me, nor the evils of age overwhelm me. But continue and encrease thy loving kindness towards me, and when thou shalt call me hence, receive me to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

The fear of being overwhelmed by the evils of age is something which faces an increasing minority of us, and those of us who are struggling with it know all too well their need of help - both human and divine. What faces all of us at the beginning of 2017 is the fear of being

December 2016

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November 2016

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October 2016

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September 2016

Dear Friends,

In a weekend newspaper supplement a gardening expert lamented the fact that a particularly colourful and attractive hardy perennial – a member of the aster family – was hardly ever seen in gardens because although it was easy to grow it needed support. “The moral is clear,” he wrote. “Blessed are the unsupported, for they shall inherit the garden.” That “moral” was inspired by one of the beatitudes (Matthew 5) - a beatitude which had been parodied before. Back in the nineteen sixties a piece of graffiti appeared in a public place. In large, bold letters someone had written “THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.” Underneath, in tiny letters and in a different hand, someone else had added “if that’s OK by you.” Both examples underline the apparent absurdity of the

August 2016

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July 2016

Dear Friends,

Under the great west window of the (new) church of the Holy Trinity, Wentworth, the following inscription is carved in stone:

”THIS CHURCH IS ERECTED FOR THE WORSHIP OF ALMIGHTY GOD IN MEMORY OF THEIR FATHER AND MOTHER BY THE CHILDREN OF CHARLES WILLIAM EARL FITZWILLIAM K.G. BORN MAY 4 1786 DIED OCTOBER 4 1857 AND MAY HIS WIFE WITH PRAYER THAT THOSE WHO WORSHIP HERE MAY LIKE THEM LIVE AND DIE IN THE FAITH OF CHRIST”

The newly erected church was consecrated on July 31st 1877, and this year the anniversary of that event falls on a Sunday. It is therefore a good year for us to revive the ancient and laudable custom whereby the anniversary of a church’s consecration is observed as a special day of thanksgiving for all the blessings which both regular worshippers and the wider community have received through their church building.

This annual celebration is called the Dedication Festival. It is often confused with the Patronal Festival or Feast of Title. That is because the saint, mystery, holy place or object after which a church is named (e.g. St Peter, The Holy Trinity, The Holy Sepulchre, The Holy Cross), is also referred to as


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