Post date: Mar 6, 2013 11:42:05 AM
Let me begin by introducing myself, for even though I have had the pleasure and privilege of worshipping with you from time to time that has been, of necessity as a visitor rather than as a member of the parish. Perhaps a good place to start would be to begin by explaining why my title is 'Amma'. I am a religious sister and one of two founder members of a rather new and small religious community, the Order of the Companions of Martha and Mary, and at the moment I serve as the superior of the Order. Before we were founded we decided that in response to our respect for the spirituality of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, the superior of our Order should be given the title Amma which is the Arabic word for 'mother' and a tile given to the female spiritual leaders of the desert communities of monks and nuns at the at the beginning of the Christian Church. As we are so small and new we do not have our own community house and so the other founding sister of the Order, Sister Judith, will be sharing community life with me at the Vicarage. Sister Judith is the Blackburn Diocese Course Director for the Called to Serve course and is the Reader at Christ the King in Blackburn.
Being born and spending my early life in Liverpool I am a 'scouser' (and very proud to be so) and although I've also lived in a variety of other places around the country I was privileged to be ordained in Liverpool Cathedral and served my curacy in the parish of Prescot, about 7 or 8 miles outside the city centre. My family live close by with my parents and my sister and her family living in Wigan and my brother and his family live in Lancaster; my sister has two children and three grandchildren and my brother has a teenage son. I also have an 'honorary' family (long story) who live in Oxfordshire and Canada and so I have an 'honorary' daughter and son-in-law and 4 'honorary' grandchildren and 2 'honorary' great-grandchildren. Before I begin to sound as old as Methuselah I should mention that my sister and my honorary daughter were married very young and had their children early! As all my family and I are very close I'm sure that eventually you will have the opportunity to meet the individual members of it when they visit at the vicarage from time to time.
As you read this article we shall be drawing ever closer the beginning of the life of the new United Benefice of Balderstone, Mellor and Samlesbury and my Institution as your new Vicar; which is both an exciting and at the same time a daunting prospect for us all!
It's exciting as we look forward to travelling together on this new venture as we begin to work as a United Benefice with Balderstone St Leonard, Mellor St Mary and Samlesbury St Leonard, and under God seek to build a new worshipping community which both creates something new and at the same time values and honours the present life, the history and the faithful witness over the centuries of all three parishes. As Jesus tells us those "who have been trained for the kingdom of heaven are like ... a household who bring out of their treasure what is new and old' [Matthew 13,52]. But of course, the building up of the United Benefice is not for our benefit it is in order that we may be witnesses and disciples who are seeking to fulfil our Lord's commandment to "go and make disciples of all nations" [Matthew 28,19]. And as a previous Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (1881-1944) once commented: "Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members".
And that of course is what makes it a daunting prospect. How are we as a United Benefice going to go about fulfilling our mission and ministry in order to 'make disciples' perhaps not of all nations but most certainly of the world and society in which we are placed? There is no simple answer to that question; and certainly no timescales, for it is only in the journeying that we will begin to see what it is that God is calling us to be and to do. What we can say is that it will be the task of us all and not just a few for it is only together as the Body of Christ are we be able to fulfil our call to be the People of God in this place. As St Paul reminds us: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body ... "
So, it's exciting and daunting at the same time but that's what our Christian pilgrimage is all about for our task is to work, not for the world or even for the church, but for the Kingdom of God.
"You found out what we were doing and you interfered: 'Come and do it with me', you said.
So thank you, Lord, for interfering in our lives.
You promised us nothing by way of success, recognition, possessions or reward, 'These things will come at the right time when you walk with me,' you said.
So thank you, Lord, for promising us nothing.
You gave us no resources apart from ourselves - hands meant for caring, lips meant for praising, hearts meant for loving, and the Holy Spirit to make us restless until we change.
So thank you, Lord, for the essential gifts.
Then, just when we've got it right as to where we should go and what we should do, just when we're ready to take on the world, you come, like a beggar to our back door, saying 'This is the way, I am the Way.'
So thank you, Lord, for coming again and keeping us right, and showing you care for us and for all people."
© 1988 The Iona Community
With every blessing