Vicar's Letter

April 2017

The funeral of The Revd Richard Buckley, in the form of a requiem mass, brought to mind some words inscribed on a modest tablet in St Paul’s cathedral commemorating its architect, Sir Christopher Wren: “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice” – “if you seek his monument, look around you.” Fr. Richard’s monument was not the building we were in, but rather the gathering of people, family, parishioners, friends and colleagues who had come to give thanks for his life and to share in the sacrament through which we are all, living and departed, joined together in one communion and fellowship.

I only knew Richard for a little over a year, but that has been long enough to appreciate his quiet courtesy. The relationship between a parish priest and his predecessor or successor is not always straightforward, and he handled it with a delicacy which immediately put me at ease. He couldn’t have been

March 2017

Some good news for a change! On the evening of Sunday May 21st Holy Trinity Wentworth will be hosting a confirmation service. It’s several years since one was last held here, so it’s an opportunity not to be missed. Whether or not you are among those who have already expressed an interest, if you wish to be confirmed please get in touch with me as soon as possible so that suitable preparation can be arranged. Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t involve passing any exams.

In the Church of England confirmation is the traditional gateway to being admitted to Holy Communion. This has its merits, though with baptism being the one necessary rite of initiation there is no hard and fast rule about it. The Church of England also reserves the administering of

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


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