Rector’s Letter

 

Fr. John Nice

Fr. John Nice


Rector’s Letter August 2017

admin : July 26, 2017 10:23 am : RectorsLetter

My recent pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham has set me up well to write about Mary, the Mother of the Lord as we prepared to celebrate her feast day this month.

In the sonnet The Annunciation by Malcolm Guite, we find these words:

But on this day a young girl stopped to see
With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice –
The promise of his glory yet to be
As time stood still for her to make a choice.
Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred.
The Word himself was waiting on her word.

From the account of the Annunciation in St. Luke’s Gospel, we get the impression that Mary was seriously disturbed by the appearance of Gabriel and by what he said to her, ‘And he came to her and said “Greetings favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”’ And well might she be disturbed, you and I would be just as disturbed if he came to us with such a message!

Yet Malcolm Guite gives us a new insight into the relationship between Mary and Gabriel.

However disturbed or afraid Mary was, in Guite’s vision it is she who becomes the dominant figure and Gabriel kneels before her – ‘and not a feather stirred.’ Gabriel makes himself small as he waits for Mary’s response to his message, and it is not just he who waits, but the Word of God himself was ‘ waiting on her word.’

We know well what response Mary gave: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” We honour Mary because she was chosen by God to be the means by which God’s Word was to come into our world in the person of Jesus Christ, but we honour her even more because she was the one who said ‘Yes’ to God and is therefore the pattern for all Christians as they seek to respond to God. “Let it be to me according to your word.” Are we all able to say those words wholeheartedly and without hesitation as she did – to assent to God’s will for us even when, like her, we do not fully understand what it means and where it will lead us?

That’s why it is right to honour Mary as the greatest of all saints, and why it is so sad that she has been the cause of such controversy in our church since the Reformation. We do not worship her as we worship Christ her son as Son of God. But we honour her as the greatest of all Christians. From the Cross, the Lord commended her to the care of the apostle John and commended John, and through him, I believe, all Christians, to the motherly care and to the prayers of Mary, Mother of the Church.

On Mary’s feast day in August we are not simply reflecting on the events of the Annunciation but on Mary’s whole life of offering to God. Many Christians celebrate this day as the ‘Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’, in the belief that at the end of her life here on earth she was taken up directly into heaven in a similar way to that of Christ himself at the Ascension. Whether we believe that or not, Mary’s feast day certainly enables us to celebrate the fact that she is indeed in heaven, the first fruit of the great harvest of souls that will make up God’s Kingdom in due course. From there she continues to love and to pray for us as we continue to struggle here on earth.

I hope that you will join me to celebrate the Eucharist in her honour on Tuesday August 15th.

Fr. John

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Rector’s Letter July 2017

admin : June 25, 2017 9:26 am : RectorsLetter

Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.

And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Awe inspiring words indeed, proclaimed by the late Bishop Victor Whitsey as he ordained me to the priesthood in Chester Cathedral on 27th June 1977 using the ordination service from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Looking at them you might be surprised at what they say about the nature of the ministerial priesthood of the Church of God. The reference to being a dispenser of the Word of God and of his Holy Sacraments you might expect – but the emphasis on the Priest’s role in declaring God’s forgiveness of sins (and his/her power to withhold that forgiveness if necessary) might indeed be unexpected to the average Anglican!

In 2017, 40 years later, you would be unlikely to hear this particular form of words at an ordination – a 21st century version of the service would probably be in use. At the end of this letter you will find the ordination prayer most often used in the Church in Wales today. You will see that it is very different indeed, and whilst it certainly includes the things mentioned in the 1662 service, it puts them into a much wider context.

However as I celebrate my 40th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood the words said as Bishop Whitsey placed his hands on my head remind me of things that lie at the heart of the ministry to which God called me. I am, above all, to preach God’s Word, celebrate His Sacraments, and offer God’s forgiveness to His people.

Why keep an anniversary of ordination? The answer is that we do it for much the same reasons that a married couple will want to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They will give thanks for the blessings they have received in their marriage, to celebrate the institution of marriage itself, and perhaps to renew their commitment to each other.

In the same way a Priest, at an anniversary of ordination will want to give thanks for the privilege of being called by God to serve in the Sacred Ministry of the Church: of being able to minister to and work alongside many wonderful people and to share important moments, joyful and sad, in their lives; to be able to preside at the Eucharist and the other sacraments; to preach and to teach, to counsel and to lead. But as well as the personal experience, priests will want to give thanks for Christ’s gift of ministerial priesthood to his church – for the institution of priesthood itself.

Today, rightly, the Church celebrates the vocation and ministry of all God’s people not just that of the clergy. Furthermore, in addition to the ordained ministry, there are now a variety of lay ministries in our Church such as Readers, Worship Leaders, Pastoral Assistants, Evangelists etc. But whilst recognizing the great contribution these can make, we must never forget how important the threefold ordained ministry of Bishop, Priest and Deacon are – these are orders of ministry which have come down to us from the ancient church, and as a Catholic Anglican I believe that they are given by God as an essential element in the life of His Church.

So on Saturday July 1st at 12 noon I will celebrate my 40th Anniversary of Ordination as Priest (and my 41st as Deacon) with a special Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church. I do hope that many of you will be able to come and give thanks with me – not just for my ministry but more importantly for the Priesthood itself – one of God’s gifts to his Church.

It has indeed been a great privilege and joy to exercise this ministry (in five parishes) – although I have also found it hard at times, it hasn’t all been plain sailing by any means. And of course, like every priest I am all too aware of my own shortcomings and failures to live up to the call of Christ and to serve His people. As I prepare to retire later this year (on the 31st October) I look forward to another stage in my priestly ministry, for a priest is always a priest and hopefully I will be able to exercise this ministry in new ways. You will look forward to the ministry of a new priest who hopefully will both build on what I have been able to do and bring new insights and talents to strengthen and deepen the life of the church in Llandudno.

Fr.John

The Ordination prayer in the Church in Wales Alternative Liturgy for the Ordination of Priests.

The bishop stretches out his or her hands towards the candidates and says:

Praise God who made heaven and earth,

Who keeps his promise for ever.

Lord our God, we give you thanks and praise,
because in your great love, you have formed throughout the world
a holy people for your own possession,
a royal priesthood, a universal Church.

We give you thanks and praise
for calling your people in every age to witness to your saving love
and to proclaim the good news of your kingdom.

And now we give you thanks that you have called these your servants
to share in the sacred ministry of Christ,
the Apostle and High Priest of our faith and the Shepherd of our souls.

The bishop and the priests lay their hands on the head of each candidate.

The bishop says:

Send your Holy Spirit upon your servant [N],
for the office and work of a priest in your Church.

When all have received the laying on of hands, the bishop continues:

Loving God, you have called these your servants;
Give them love, wisdom and understanding,
that they may carry out this ministry
to which they have been ordained.
May they live and proclaim the gospel of salvation
and bring healing to the sick.
May they faithfully celebrate the sacraments of our redemption
and absolve and bless in your name.
Give them patience and hope, gentleness and perseverance
to work with all your people,
that the world may come to know your glory and your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

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Rector’s Letter June 2017

admin : May 28, 2017 4:44 pm : RectorsLetter

What a month June is going to be!

On the first Sunday of June (4th), our observance of Eastertide will end with the great feast of Pentecost (Whitsunday). At Pentecost we celebrate the beginning of the Church – the moment when a small band of men and women, apostles and disciples of Jesus, were transformed into the Body of Christ by the coming of the Holy Spirit. From that moment on the Good News of Christ began to spread throughout the world.

On the very next day (Monday 5th) we will remember the beginning of the Christian life here in Llandudno by keeping the feast of our founder and patron, St Tudno. Tudno, we believe, was the first to bring the Christian faith to this place. We can imagine him arriving and planting a cross on the Great Orme, so claiming it for Christ.

The fact that Pentecost and St. Tudno’s Day fall on consecutive days helps us to make the connection between the moment when the Church began and when it arrived in Llandudno some 5 or 6 centuries later. But when we celebrate both these days, we are also aware that we’re not just marking two moments in the past – two historical events – however important. The Church of God is not a historical society! Both days tell us that what happened then in the first and sixth centuries remains of supreme importance today in the early twenty first century.

When we keep the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate a reality in which we share today. Like the apostles and disciples gathered together in the upper room, we too have a share in the divided tongues of fire. These tongues, which descended on them that day also descended on us on the day of our Baptism. We share in the life of the living Body of Christ just as did they. We have the same responsibility to live the life of Christ and to proclaim that life to the world.

And when we celebrate St. Tudno’s Day, we are not just remembering a historical figure and the moment of his arrival here. Tudno is also our contemporary – in heaven he is part of the great Communion of Saints in which we too share. He is, one might say, our special friend in heaven, who continues to support us in our the going July local efforts to carry on the work he began in our own time. We can turn to him for his prayerful support in all that we do.

So, these two special days help us to remember who we are as members of the Body of Christ in 21st century Llandudno and where the source of our Christian life is to be found. We see ourselves as part of an ongoing historical tradition but also are aware our share in the eternal now of our life in Christ. So we take courage!

A few days after we keep these two important days there is something else to challenge us – the General Election. It is not my task as your parish priest to tell you how to vote (I suspect you wouldn’t take much notice of me if I did). It is my responsibility though, to ask you, before you cast your vote, to think deeply about how your faith informs your political thinking. What does your life in Christ have to say to you about the kind of society you wish Britain to be? How do the manifestoes and the philosophies of the various parties clamoring for your vote tie in with the values of the Kingdom of God expressed in the Gospels? Quite a lot to consider before June 8th.

Finally, to let you know that on Saturday July 1st I will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of my Ordination as Priest with a Eucharist at 12 noon, followed by some refreshments afterwards. I hope that you’ll be able to join me on that occasion to celebrate God’s gift of the ministerial priesthood to his Church.

Fr. John

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