The Revd Dr Jan van der Lely’s
at St Mary’s Church
Sunday 9th September 2012.
How wonderful it is to stand before you now as your Vicar, and to preach my first sermon in the parish. Its a great honour and privilege and I am very moved to have been called to serve god here.
You will soon discover my usual preaching style, generally I talk about the readings of the day. I will do that at Evensong tonight. But this morning I hope you will forgive me if I speak more generally about starting ministry here.
Recently I came across this little poem which I will read to you. Its called ‘A Prayer to my congregation’
by Graham Jeffery.
Please use me as a priest and minister.
Tell me how I can help you.
Let our talk be appropriate and seemly.
Do not burden me with talk on church architecture, or church finances.
More vocations have been smothered with trivia,
than have been lost by deliberate negligence.
Build me up.
Stress my good points -
Encourage me in my virtues
rather than rebuke me for my vices.
My sin, like yours,
needs to be crowded out by virtue,
not driven out by protestation.
Please help me,
please love me,
and yes...please respect me.
But do not put me on a pedestal;
it hurts so much
when I fall off.
There is quite a lot of scope for thought and even discussion, about the role of the Vicar, in that little poem! Just a couple of points. First, that bit about church architecture and church finances -
‘Let our talk be appropriate and seemly’ -
‘The poem says ‘Please use me as a priest and minister. Tell me how I can help you’ -
‘Build me up’ says the prayer, boldly, to the congregation. Hang on a minute -
‘Please love me’, says the prayer. I am here to love and care for all of you, and everyone else in the benefice. That’s my primary aim. Now, you have recently been through a traumatic experience; you took to your hearts your previous Vicar who after a few short months was tragically taken away from you. That is extremely bruising; a loss like that makes it all the harder to trust and love and ‘buy into’ a new relationship again. But that is what I am asking you to do. ‘Please love me’ -
There was a bit in the poem about virtues and vices. Well, this is not really a vice, but I have a small confession to make. And I may as well get it over with. You will discover this for yourselves soon enough. My confession is that I struggle with remembering names. I get it in the end but I need lots of reminders, especially if I don’t see you very often. If I forget your name it really doesn't mean that I don’t care, so please don’t be offended! Just keep on telling me.
If you were here on Tuesday at the Induction service, I wonder if you noticed one word that kept on cropping up. Over and over again, on your lips and on mine. The word was ‘Together’. Together -
The prayer after communion for today takes up this theme; it asks that we will be ‘united in prayer and in the breaking of bread, and one in joy and simplicity of heart’. Isn’t that a beautiful picture, of how a Christian community can be. Lets make it true here among us, together. Amen.