Sermon for Christ Church Falkirk Dedication Festival 2015

Last year we celebrated 150 years in the life of Christ Church. We held a big celebration which took almost a year to organise. We invited all those special people who had been stepping stones on the way: past curates (now bishops); past rectors (now elsewhere or retired); and past friends. We had an exhibition of old vestments worn by all these worthies, and all the treasures were taken out of the safe for an airing. Wendy is still working on putting together a history of Christ Church, looking back at old magazines and we hope to have it available soon.

We are now a year on and again it is time to look back. Christ Church is about her people as much as it is about her building. A building which is need of considerable repairs in the coming months. On our Dedication Festival, we dedicate our building with its dodgy roof and flaking paint.

“Where do you work?” someone asked me last week. “Oh I love the look of that church whenever I pass it,” they replied when I told them. And it is a beautiful church, a unique building. We are very fortunate to worship in this space. The stained glass is exquisite, the proportions just right, and sometimes it takes your breath away.

But we mustn’t forget the people. They are unique too. Exquisite, proportions just right…? And sometimes you take my breath away. Just not so many of you these days. Even if we add in our 28 housebound members and the new people who have joined us this past year, we are still struggling to keep the building going and pay the bills. And I’m afraid that’s going to get worse in the months and years ahead.

But what warms my heart is the effort you all do put in. Look at these gifts today – birthday presents for Christ Church which make a huge difference. And I know it comes on top of our Harvest appeal and our last collection for the homeless. These gifts are a sign of the love you have for this place.

We love the place, O God, as we’ve just sung in our Gradual Hymn.

A house of prayer… how many prayers have been said in this place, I wonder?
The stones are seeped in them.
The kneelers are infused in them.
Prayers of thanks, of hope, of pleading.
Prayers of some of you as youngsters,
prayers right through your lives.
How many prayers said right here, I wonder?

We love the sacred font, the hymn goes on.
For there the holy Dove pours her blessing on little ones and some grown ups too.
Think of all the babies who’ve been baptised here.
Some still sitting here today.
Some becoming our future and our hope.
Promises made to care for them and share our faith with them.
Each one of us made these promises and we need to keep fulfilling them.

We love the altar, Lord.
Where we find his presence near.
How many hands have been outstretched and fed at that altar, I wonder?
Old wrinkly hands, arthritic hands, bejewelled hands, growing hands, wee pudgy hands.
Each unique.
Each telling a different story.
Each reaching out to be fed.
To hold the body of Christ in our throne of hands.
To be fed and nourished for our journey.

We love the word of life, the word of God,
the stories told again and again at the eagle lectern there
and down there for the gospel
and in this pulpit where the clergy try to make sense of it all.
Words of peace, of comfort, of challenge, of joys that never cease.

We love to sing too.
Unless it’s a new hymn, eh?
Songs of triumph with occasional descants and harmonies.
Songs of joy and songs of mercy.
Which are your favourite?
The joyful rousing ones
or the quiet reflective ones?
How many songs have been sung in this place, I wonder?

And finally, the hymn ends with these words:
Lord Jesus, give us grace on earth to love thee more, in heav’n to see thy face, and with thy saints adore.
Give us grace to love thee more.
And I suppose I’m preaching to the converted here because you are here and I assume it’s because you want to love him more.
And next week we shall hear more of the saints who’ve gone before.

We love thy place, O God. We do. But do we love it enough to make sure it continues for another 151 years though?

And that’s the question I leave with you today.

Statistics show that the vast majority of people come to church for the first time because somebody invited them. It’s that simple. Maybe there are people you know who are just waiting for that invitation. They just don’t know how to ask you if they can come along. But think of what you have here, what joy and love you have received here. Don’t you want to share that with someone? If you do, then you can rest assured that you will have shared the greatest love of all.

How awesome is this place, said Jacob in our first reading.
How awesome is this place, say we.
This is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven.

2015-10-25 10.05.53

Singalong a Missa Simplex

I went to choir practice last night. Not to sing per se, but to lurk and learn the new mass setting which will be given an airing on our Patronal Festival this Friday. The Bishop is coming and we want to be at our best.

I liked it. It is in the back of our hymn book (Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New) – No 957 Missa Simplex by Malcolm Archer. If I managed it then everyone else should too. But you know what it’s like with something new…

Something else I noticed… one of my fave hymns is In our Day of Thanksgiving which we used to sing at St Michael and All Saints to the tune St Catherine’s Court. But all the newer hymn books have it to the tune Was Lebet which is easier but not so nice, imho. What do you sing it to?

Bibles and Beer

An e-friend came across this Temperance hymn which I just had to share. What would the Episcopalian version be? Prayer books and Gin? And can anyone think of a tune we could sing it to?

Bibles and Beer

Over the sea in their ignorant blindness,
Dwell the poor heathen ‘mid darkness and night.
We in the homeland with brotherly kindness,
Reach out with longing to send them the light.
So o’er the ocean our good ships are speeding,
Gladly to bear the tidings of cheer;
But side by side with the word of God – think of it!
Travels its foe – our American Beer.

Bibles and beer! What a strange combination!
Who ever heard of the like in creation?
Mustn’t the heathen consider us queer,
Sending them cargoes of Bibles and beer?

Bibles to teach them the way of salvation,
Lifting them up from the mire and the clay;
Beer to effect their demoralization,
Sinking them deeper and deeper each day.
What must they think of us, giving them double,
Hope from above and despair from beneath?
Filling the beckoning hands that entreat us with
Bread of life mingled with water of death.


Oh, the disgrace of it, oh, the sad pity!
Pray, Christian voters, has this your consent?
Then tell me why, in town, village and city,
You are not working this shame to prevent.
Why do you work, vote and shout with the parties,
Pledged as you know to this legalized sin?
Think of a Christian land sending to heathen lands
Beer to be sold, with a Bible thrown in!