Max Young writes … Some Palm Sunday Thoughts

Looking ahead to Palm Sunday, I wonder what happened to that donkey, or in Matthew’s version, the donkey and colt? In Jesus’s time, such animals were a form of mobile wealth – cash on the hoof – not the kind of thing you’d give away lightly – and yet it was given away. We don’t know whether the owner got it back; that would have been quite difficult with all the extra human traffic in Jerusalem for the festival.

But it’s one of those things about Christian discipleship, frequently mentioned by Jesus, that our relationship with the things we own should change when he comes into our lives. We can’t hold onto him and them equally. Jesus was quite clear when he explained that his disciples were people whose grip on wealth, influence and even on family had been loosened. Perhaps if we haven’t changed our relationship to our possessions then we would have to ask ourselves whether Jesus had really come into our lives.

And what about the crowd who, seeing Jesus on the donkey, saw the parallel with the words they’d heard from their reading of Zechariah. A prophet might appear in our minds as an old man in flowing robes and a long white beard – we might be able to visualise Ian McKellern as Gandalf more easily than we can a prophet like Zechariah. But to the crowd this was the very stuff of life – they had heard his words at home and in the synagogue; words that they were seeing brought to life in front of their very eyes!

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he
humble and riding on a donkey
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

And so, suddenly, this crowd is shouting the word “Hosanna!” – normally a word kept for their worship at this festival in the hallowed precincts of the Temple – But, with Jesus right in front of them in the street, they simply can’t hold back the word any longer. When Jesus comes to us, today, promises of new life and hope and forgiveness suddenly seem to be a possibility. But, for that to be possible, however, we need to have eyes to see them …

Some people obviously can’t see the new spiritual reality. In fact, they don’t even see Jesus. Instead, like many of the crowd on the first Palm Sunday, they ask, “Who is this?” Clearly they aren’t the ones whose friends or family had been healed by Jesus or whose water had been turned into wine. They are those perpetually on the sidelines, unable, unaware or unwilling, to try to understand the spiritual event on the main stage. They are the girl in the jewellery shop fingering the crosses and asking the shop assistant if they have ‘one with the little bloke on it’. They are the mother I heard telling her daughter some years ago, as I walked past them on a Good Friday march of witness in Filey, that it was something to do with Christmas. They are the ones who, for whatever reason, don’t come to a church to worship with us. They are the ones who need someone to answer the question, “Who is this?”

And who must provide them with the answer? You and I, as Christians have to spread the Good News by our words and actions. If we are successful the question they ask will change to “Who are these?” You may remember me quoting the words of the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu,

“It would be fantastic if people not only said of Jesus Christ, “What sort of man is this?” but said of us, his followers,

“What sort of people are they? Their gracious actions, and the language on their lips is of God’s goodness and love. Let us get to know them. There is something extraordinarily normal and wonderful about them.”

Goeroge Abell writes … We look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

We look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”
 (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

Christianity is like an ellipse that has two foci.  One focus is Jesus, our One Lord and Saviour, and the other focus is us (all humanity). These two foci of our holy faith are first, that Jesus took our human flesh, gave his life for us on the Cross, and on the third day rose again. And secondly that we also, because of his resurrection, will share a fully restored resurrection life at the end of our life’s journey.

But there is something very special about this “us” part of our Faith, because in Baptism, in a deeply spiritual yet real way, we actually receive and begin there and then, the precious gift of eternal life; the start of a born-again life-in-Christ (John3:1-17). At Holy Communion, when receiving the sacramental Body and Blood of Jesus, the minister will say words like this: ‘the Body of Christ keep you in eternal life’, and similarly with the sacrament of Christ’s Blood, shed for us.

This last statement of our creed is a kind of blanket declaration covering the entire Christian Hope for all humanity, that this life is not all there is, that death is not the final end; that the substance of our mortal human life and existence, body mind and spirit, individuality and personality, will be changed and transformed into a glorious, perfect, beautiful resurrection life. Our home then will not be a finite creation on a finite planet, but set in a world other than all we know now, the eternal world. There, in heaven, God the Holy Trinity is its direct life and light (Revelation 21:22-23). All this is almost beyond the scope of our present human knowing and imagination, so to help and assure us we have the most precious of all gifts from God, the gift of faith. That gift of faith has been given a solidity and firmness by Divine Revelation all through Old Testament Scripture, and supremely and finally in the New Testament of Christ’s life; in his very presence and teaching amongst us. And his disciples have encapsulated all this for us in the sacred writings; the distillation of all that they had come to believe through the words of Jesus himself and the prompting of his Holy Spirit. Here are key passages relevant for this part of our creed:

“You will show me the path of life; in your presence is the fullness of joy and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:10; Old Testament). “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his compassion never fails” (Lamentations 3:22; O.T. again).

Jesus speaking to Martha after her brother’s death: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus to all his disciples: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3; see also 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 & 1 John 3:1-2).

St Peter, writing in 1 Peter 1:4-5: “The inheritance to which we are born [meaning Baptism] is one that nothing can destroy or spoil or wither. It is kept for you in heaven, and you, because you put your faith in God, are under the protection of his power”. Jesus again to the disciples: “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has give me, but raise it up on the last day…that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day” (John 6:39-40).

In earlier articles on the final Return of Jesus or “the last day” I tried to explain that the things of time and eternity intertwine and overlap as it were. So we have to hold in balance two different but related perceptions or consciousness of life here and now, and life still to come in the hereafter. We speak of our departed loved ones being now in heaven with Jesus; and in the Eternal Dimension that is certainly so. Viewed however from our present space-time world and dimension, the return of Jesus and the full resurrection life of our loved ones is still to come. Christians have long prayed for those who have died using words like this: “Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them: may they rest in peace and rise in glory”. And with prayer like this: With grateful hearts for their life here, their love and gifts and many good memories, we commend them to the infinite mercy and goodness of God knowing ‘that they are held by the everlasting arms of God Our Father’ (Deuteronomy 33:27). Note also Romans 8:38-39, that ‘nothing but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ our Lord’.

Our understanding of all this is still partial and incomplete. And always pray in the way that you see it and that helps you most. God understands even if we don’t, and what matters is that we hold on to our core faith in the glorious, final, full resurrection in the life of the world to come; and leave the hows and the whens to God. We should always praise God and pray for our loved ones in the ways described or similar. To forget them would almost be a crime against love.

One day in God’s good time and merciful purpose when our human life here is ended, you and I will indeed be taken to our eternal home by Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14). God will clothe us with the fullness of the glorious resurrection body. We will truly share in the ecstatic mystery of the final glorious return of Christ our King. We shall see our beloved Lord face to face in joy forever (1 John 3:2, again). We will share eternal joy too with countless Angels and Saints (Hebrews 12:22-24; etc) and with our loved ones already there. In the next and final article I will try to sum up the whole Nicene Creed.

In praise of God the good Creator and all loving Redeemer, and for the precious gifts of life and faith, and also for this Creed, I would like to close with this Litany of Praise to Jesus:

For his holy Incarnation and victorious Cross:    Blessed be Jesus our Lord and God.
For his triumphant Resurrection and glorious Ascension:  Blessed be Jesus.
For the gift of his Spirit and the holy catholic Church: Blessed be Jesus.
For the gifts of grace in Word, Sacrament and Christian Fellowship:  Blessed be Jesus.
For the triumphs of his Gospel, the lives of his Saints, and yours and mine: Blessed be Jesus.
For joy or for sorrow, in life and in death: Blessed be Jesus.
For the sure hope of eternal glory with him and with each other: Blessed be Jesus.
And from now until the end of the ages:   Blessed be Jesus.
Alleluia. Amen.

George Abell

Steve writes … Mind the Gap

At a morning service recently you may remember that I showed the graph of the ages of Faringdon’s residents. It shows a fairly even distribution of people in each of five different age groups, each of which span a fourteen-year period. This means the number of people in Faringdon aged between 0 and 14 yrs, then 15 to 29, 30 to 44, 45 to 59, 60 to 74 are surprisingly similar, with the age group 30 to 44 being more highly represented than any of others. There are not so many Faringdonians in the age bracket 75 to 89 and a smaller number still who are over 90 years of age.

The graph is one made available to us as a parish by Oxford diocese and the question that is posed to us under the graph by the diocese is ‘Does the age profile of your parish match that of your congregation?’. Well, the age profile of the parish shows that 75% of those who live in Faringdon are aged under 60. But the age profile of our congregations is almost opposite- about 75% of us are over 60.

It’s great to be together as God’s people at All Saints’ whatever age we are. There is so much Christian experience and wisdom from our older saints from which we benefit hugely. But these figures present us with a huge challenge if we are to work towards our congregational age-profile being more similar to that of the town we aim to reach with the good news of Jesus.

So it’s not that there’s any problem at all in having folk over 60 in church (far from it, I’m one of them!) – they’re absolutely essential and vital to the health of All Saints’. But what it does mean is that we’d love to see, in addition to our present congregation, a good many more folk from the age groups which are not currently well represented in church but are certainly here living in Faringdon.

The priority that the PCC unanimously supports is that we aim to be a church that is ‘connecting people with Jesus, sharing his love in our everyday lives’. In order to fulfil this for our town as a whole, we may have to start doing some things and stop doing others. We’ll be looking at using the opportunities we have to connect people right across the age groups with Jesus and that’s, as I said earlier, a huge challenge, so please pray for All Saints’ as we endeavour to fulfil this commission that God has given us.

Yours in Christ,


Home Group Meetings in February

Home Groups will not meet again until after Easter because of the Alpha Course groups meeting on Tuesday afternoons and Thursday evenings. The exception is the Wednesday group which will continue to meet – see below.

Day and Dates Time Place Contact Subject
Wed 7th 7.45pm 2 Leamington Gate Barbara Mapley Lectionary readings
Wed 21st 7.45pm 2 Leamington Gate 615 009 Beatitudes

Prayer Calendar for February

Please continue to pray for the life and work of our parishes

Thurs 1st Mission of the Month – Interserve.
Fri 2nd Our Bishops Steven and Colin, and our Area Dean David.
Sat 3rd Lynn Treneary in South Sudan.
Sun 4th Saints Alive this morning.
Mon 5th Meeting of Little Allsorts this afternoon.
Tues 6th Worship and music at All Saints’ and St Mary’s.
Wed 7th “Life & Mission of God’s Church” prayer meeting this evening.
Thurs 8th OtB this morning. Fourth Science & Faith talk this evening.
Fri 9th Our witness to friends and neighbours.
Sat 10th Men’s Group breakfast this morning.
Sun 11th Steve, Graham, Helen, Barbara, Dick, John, Max, Paul and Jim.
Mon 12th For all on half-term holiday this week.
Tues 13th All who are ill, recently bereaved or in any other kind of need.
Wed 14th Ash Wednesday Communion Service this evening. Start of Lent.
Thurs 15th Work of the Mustard Seed and Seekers Light.
Fri 16th For all Prayer Groups in our Churches.
Sat 17th Magazine preparation this weekend.
Sun 18th  Families bringing children for baptism this morning.
Mon 19th Bell ringers practicing this evening.
Tues 20th For all who help run our Churches.
Wed 21st Paul Walker, our appointed Curate, his wife and family.
Thurs 22nd “Open the Book” at the Infant and Junior School this morning.
Fri 23rd For our young people’s work.
Sat 24th Our continued search for a Director of Music.
Sun 25th Wardens, Vergers and Welcomers, Intercessors and Readers.
Mon 26th Community activities in Faringdon and Little Coxwell.
Tues 27th Work of Churches Together and the Family Centre.
Wed 28th The Wisbey family.

Meetings for Prayer in February

All Saints’ seeks to have an active and regular prayer ministry with a number of informal meetings during the month to which all are very welcome.

Friday 2nd 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Tuesday 6th 2.00-3.00pm Julian Meeting (18 Eastfield Court)
Wednesday 7th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Wednesday 7th 7.30pm Life & Mission of Church (Church)
Friday 9th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Tuesday 13th 8.00-9.00pm Julian Meeting (call 244 905 for venue)
Wednesday 14th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Friday 16th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Friday 16th 8.00pm Prayer for the World (Call 240 509 for venue)
Wednesday 21st 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Wednesday 21st 10.30-11.30am Prayer for CMS (8 Coach Lane)
Friday 23rd 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Tuesday 27th 8.00-9.00pm Julian Meeting (call 244 905 for venue)
Wednesday 28th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)

Life & Mission of God’s Church (1st Wednesday evening):  Steve Bellamy (240 106)

Julian Meeting (Tuesday afternoon):  Pat Tylee (241 039)

Julian Meeting (Tuesday evening):  Beryl Begg (244 905)

CMS Prayer Group (3rd Wednesday morning):  Bob & Joan Plumptre (243 388)

Parish Prayers (Friday am) and Prayer for the World (Friday pm):  Graham & Margaret Scott-Brown (240 509)

Mission of the Month for February: Interserve

Our Vision

To see lives and communities transformed through encounter with Jesus Christ.

Our Purpose

To make Jesus Christ known through holistic ministry, in partnership with the global church, amongst the neediest peoples of Asia and the Arab World.

The story of Interserve

In 1820 it was estimated that out of a population of 40 million women in India, only 400 could read and write. That’s just one woman in every 100,000.

For many of these women life was spent shut away from the world in a secluded woman’s quarters, called “Zenanas”. Marriage at just 13 or 14 was not uncommon for them, neither was her husband’s death. This left her two choices. To die with him by horrifically throwing herself onto his funeral pyre or choosing a life of seclusion in the Zenana, hidden from the world.

In 1852, responding to a plea by Mrs Mackenzie, an English merchant Lady Mary Jane Kinnaird founded the Calcutta Normal School in the United Kingdom. It’s task: to train Indian Christian women to go into the Zenana to teach those there to read and write. She had written that “If we can give the women of India the power to read, and the Book to read, God will bless His Word.”

By 1950,100 years after its initial founding, the British mission accepted its first male missionary. Shortly after, in 1957, the name was changed to the Bible & Medical Mission Fellowship (BMMF), auxiliary committees were formed across the Commonwealth, and the international fellowship emerged.

In 1976 it became known as Interserve and has continued to send those with hearts like Mrs MacKenzie to serve where there is a need – from doctors and nurses, to teachers, and those with technical and practical skills.

To find out more about this story and others, go to

For more information about Interserve contact Janet Deane  (241 145)

Missions News

News About The Children’s Society and The Church Mission Society

News about the Children’s Society

The Annual Box Opening which took place during November realised the sum of £419.15 being collected from Boxholders. This has been forwarded to The Children’s Society. Very many thanks to all Boxholders for your continued generosity and the support you give to the Society which enables it to provide vital help to disadvantaged children and young in this country.

The total amount from the Envelopes and the Collection at the Christingle Service in January was £352.00. This, together with the Boxholders donations, gives a total of £771.15 which has been passed to the Society to assist in its essential work with children. Many thanks to you all for so generously continuing to support this UK Charity.

I am relinquishing the post of Co-ordinator for The Children’s Society. A very kind offer to take on this responsibility has been made and this will take place immediately. The Box Opening for 2018 will take place as usual in November when Mr John Seedell will be pleased to receive your Boxes. John’s very kind offer to represent the Society is greatly appreciated. He can be contacted on 242 440.

Hazel Catling

News about the Church Mission Society

Good News! At last, Lynn Treneary, our Mission Partner with CMS, has internet connection. At last, we can send and receive e-mails. It is not all perfect, three months after Lynn returned to Maridi, she has made a quick trip to Kampala, Uganda, to get more solar battery power, and also, as roads are closed and supplies are short, to buy tyres for her car and households needs. She has had to use the MAF plane to get there and back, as the roads are dangerous.
The latest prayer paper from CMS reports that on 21st December, a cessation of hostilities agreement was signed by government and rebel forces. This was the eighth agreement in three years, but sadly, there have been as many violations of it since then as the previous ceasefires. Please continue to pray for an end to violence and fighting and a recovery of the rule of law. Please also pray for the 209,011 people still displaced from their homes and living in camps in Juba, Bentiu, Malakal, Bor and Wau. (see the Barber rooms board for the map.)
Lynn wrote a Link Letter for the church before Christmas and we have received a copy from CMS in the new year. In spite of the troubles she faces daily she writes of many good things that are taking place there.
Just before Christmas Lynn had some experience in organising college exams. She says she was glad when the college decided they must look for an expert to do the job! The college is doing well and they hope to open as a campus for the Episcopal University next year.
The Diocese is much the same as when Lynn left it. It is still without electricity or open roads and the water stop/start. However, everyone keeps going and retains hope for a better future.
Positive news is that a team from Kenya and Uganda from Action Africa Help are in Maridi to help improve the health system. There is a long way to go, there are no mosquito nets at the hospital etc, but there are medicines for malaria, typhoid, dysentery, and pneumonia all of which talk too many lives. The team is also helping with the biggest health crisis of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B, both of which are spreading fast. There is also a team helping to deal with Nodding Syndrome.
The youth are also doing really well, with over 2000 singing, dancing, and praying in the diocese. The Bishop has recently returned from Ireland with some new electronic equipment. Lynn says they hope to put on an evangelistic concert in six months
The Mothers Union is doing well. They have managed to rebuild a small meeting room that had burned down a couple of years ago. They have also raised funds for the widows and orphans group school fees for next year. This will be a great relief. Much of this money has come from donations and they are looking for schools in UK and elsewhere who might like to twin with the local schools in Maridi.
The cathedral and the staff houses are also in a bad state of repair and need help. It is not easy to get donations for buildings , and, in All Saints’ we know the difference good buildings make as we use the Barber Rooms.
Other good news. Lynn reports that the evangelistic team (see photo) spent a week touring the town including seven markets, the army barracks, the police recruitment centre and the state legislative HQ. Many people came to the Lord and/or renewed their faith. God is so great!
Lynn finishes her letter with grateful thanks to God and the way he has blessed them. The situation is grim, people are traumatised through being held captive by rebels or having their family members killed, but they know that God still loves them. The letter is humbling, in the midst of their troubles, they are not sitting back in despair, they are out there working to make lives better, and God is loving them and blessing them.
The full Link Letter will be pinned on the notice board by the Barber rooms. Do read it and all the other information that is renewed each week. The CMS sends out a weekly prayer paper and we put any information on South Sudan on the board. If you too would like to keep up with information on CMS by using the prayer paper, talk to Joan Plumptre – or join us on the 3rd Wednesday every month at 10.30-11.30am to pray for Lynn and CMS. When people pray, God always answers and sends his blessings.

For more information about CMS contact: Joan Plumptre (243 388)

Max Young writes … Do Christians believe in God?

I once met a Muslim who asked me that question, “Do Christians believe in God?” The reason he asked this question was because the Christians he’d met were ones who only spoke about Jesus, and when they used the word ‘Lord’ it seemed to him they were talking about Jesus only.

Do we have to believe in God to be a Christian? Well, of course we do! It’s at the heart of our faith – Jesus himself said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” You can’t do that, without believing in God, can you? But I wonder, do some of us believe in him without actually knowing or experiencing him? If we’re to know God in, or through, Christ, we have to experience him as, Jesus did, in the down to earth, everyday, business of life.

If you agree with me, then nothing should interest us as Christians more than the religious experience of Jesus. Let’s forget for a moment what he taught and did, but focus on what happened to him, on his experience.

In seven verses (9-15) of the first chapter of his Gospel, Mark pares everything down to give us a powerful story of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry among us. In those verses he describes events which, are reflected in the experience, the lives, of every one of us, the highs, lows and the humdrum.

There’s the glorious ‘high’ of his baptism in the Jordan, with the Spirit descending on him like a dove, and when he heard the voice of God his Father affirming him in his love.

Can you picture that scene? Can you imagine the joy that must have shown in his face. Presumably his religious experience before his baptism by John must have been relatively normal, but now he was at a phenomenally significant turning point.

Have you ever been to a baptism, when something a little different happens. When God seemed to be there in a special way? Yes, I know, it could be just a psychological reaction on the part of the person being baptised or someone in the baptism party– though what’s wrong with that? But it might be something deeper, what is called a theophany – God showing himself to a human being – mightn’t it? If God is God, and he loves his children, why shouldn’t we accept the possibility of a specially chosen close encounter with him?

Aren’t such ‘highs’ part and parcel of our ongoing experience as we grow in the Christian life? We should thank God for those glimpses, those mountain-top experiences, those wonderful answers to prayer.

But then, after that high came a dreadful ‘low’ – quite literally a desert experience. The idea of God meeting his people in the wilderness runs like a thread through the Old Testament: there’s Moses, awestruck at the burning bush; Israel dwarfed by the desert vastness of  Sinai; dejected Elijah, too, at the ‘mountain of God’. Jesus’ desert experience was, quite explicitly, an experience of Satan, the enemy of God, a time of testing and temptation. And it wasn’t just a brief skirmish; it lasted nearly six weeks. Imagine that! Six weeks is a long time, as any parent knows in the summer holidays! I don’t think that the word torment is an exaggeration for this experience of Jesus.

In preparing people for their baptism, or their child’s, it’s essential to warn them that a spiritual ‘downer’ may happen afterwards. No ‘high’ can last for ever. We teach that the Christian life is an ongoing battle, and that the power of evil is a constant reality. And we need to remember that it was the same Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his baptism who then “drove him out into the wilderness.” The low times in our spiritual lives aren’t signs that God has gone away and abandoned us. For reasons he alone knows, he sees fit to put us through the mangle – to parallel Jesus’ experience. Yes, it can be wonderful to experience the reality of God in our lives, but it doesn’t always seem that way!

We have the highs, the lows and then we come to what I called the humdrum, a return to normality “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” In a word, he got on with the job his Father had given him to do, proclaiming God’s kingdom and gathering followers. The high had been enjoyed; the low had been endured; now it was time for the steady task of service.

As it was for Jesus, God calls his people, us, to work, and we shouldn’t let the highs or lows distract us from that basic fact. Anyone who suggests that the living of our Christian lives should be at a constantly high-octane intensity or excitement, has blinded themselves to both scripture and experience.

After his time in the wilderness, Jesus, this time in the words of Luke, “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” The Spirit again! The same Spirit who filled Jesus with exultation at his baptism – the same Spirit who drove him out into the desert – that same Spirit now empowered him for his day to day ministry.

The message couldn’t be clearer. Don’t delight in God only in the highs, when the Spirit is so excitingly obvious. Don’t cry out to God only in the lows, when the Spirit seems depressingly absent. No, expect him to be there also in the ordinary business of life, equipping, guiding, and enabling by the same Spirit. The experience of God can be quite routine. If our spiritual antennae were really sensitive we’d be able to receive this message every waking day, every hour, every minute. “Seven whole days, not one in seven.” Yes, Christians do believe in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

George Abel writes … We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins

Exploring the Nicene Creed

This brief statement was included in the Creed to emphasize that the Church is a Sacramental Community; so it will be helpful to explore the meaning of this term.

Essentially Sacraments are real and meaningful Signs: signs, or sure indicators of God’s Love and Grace at certain points or needs in our Christian journey. They are often referred to in our Prayer Books as the means of grace. Hence a Sacrament is fundamentally an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, ordained and given by Christ himself. Through them we receive the promises of Jesus; sure pledges with firm assurance of his gifts of grace. The whole New Testament sees them in this light, fulfilling also promises made by God in the Old Testament (Joel 2:28-29).

There are two major Gospel Sacraments, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. There are five other rites of the Church often called sacraments, given for particular stages as we grow in Christ, namely: Confirmation, Reconciliation (confession), Holy Orders (making the Church’s ministers for those called), Christian Marriage (for those called) and Anointing (for the sick). Sacraments do not work mechanically like machines (i.e. a certain cause always has a certain effect); or like a tap being turned on. And they have absolutely nothing to do with magic or superstition! They operate, for the want of a better word and are meaningful, only in the context of faith and trust, devotion and humility, love and obedience to the Lord the giver.

Holy Baptism is the foundation Sacrament or basis from which all other Sacraments and grace-giving rites have their origin and find their meaning. Throughout these articles mention has been made how aspects of our holy Faith have tangible concrete expression in the Sacraments.

Thinking about the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus I wrote this: “These are truths that carry also a special meaning, for they point to and assure us of our resurrection in Christ, and of our ascension to be with him one day. For this we have real and certain foretaste now, for the two Gospel Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are explicit outward signs. Baptism confers on the believer the gift of new eternal life. Communion nurtures that gift, nourishing it throughout our lives until we see Christ in heaven and share too his final return in glory”.

Holy Baptism is truly the New Life Sacrament giving life in Christ and with Christ forever, within the family of Christ’s Church. The Creed stresses that it means the absolving and forgiveness of all that has been evil or wrong in the person’s former life. And most importantly the truth that divine forgiveness and healing of heart and conscience are available all through life. For infants it is not some kind of cleansing of an inherited propensity or inclination to sinfulness (once called original sin), but just as for adults the sure guarantee of a life held for ever in the enriching and forgiving Love of our Father. God always gives full pardon and forgiveness when we confess the wrongs we have done, whether in prayer silently at home; or with the Christian family in church when (after the general confession said by all) the minister pronounces the royal words of pardon. And always where we confess humbly, truly and sincerely.

There might however be an occasion, if we are seriously and persistently troubled in mind and conscience when we need the additional counsel support and affirmation that sacramental confession can bring. So never hesitate to make use of it if necessary, for clergy are trained and commissioned to give this particular help and encouragement. Divine forgiveness however given does not come cheaply, for we always make confession to Christ who was crucified for us, whether quietly in prayer at home, or in the pew in church, or privately before God’s priest. Yet it is truly and graciously given for our dear Saviour has paid the price, completely, willingly, lovingly, and for everyone, and forever. That is especially what our Creed wants to hold before us.

Thinking about Baptism and the whole sacramental life of the Church, always try to see the Sacraments as real living encounters with Jesus; a meeting of friends, and our very special Friend and Brother. They are encounters with the living God, and with all his true friends in the local and universal family of Christ. They are enriching, warm and uplifting, truly grace-giving, heartfelt and beautiful, personal ‘contacts’. Never forget that your baptism established that relationship with your Saviour, both for this life now and for eternity with him. If you are expecting good news and it comes in a letter or by email or face book you get quite a thrill. If it’s by ‘phone and you hear the voice how much better; but if it comes in person face to face what a greater joy. Always think of Sacraments in that last kind of way. They do bring huge joy and happiness now, and are real foretastes of life with Jesus in heaven.

But why “One Baptism”? It is to assert its supreme importance as the one and only rite of Christian initiation. And as the foundation and key Sacrament, once given it can never be repeated. Infant Baptism is always fully and completely adequate; and wherever possible should be confirmed by the person’s own choice at a suitable age in the Church’s rite of Confirmation. Its ‘oneness’ also links it to the oneness of our Father God and our Lord Jesus Christ; to the one holy Faith also and the very life and nature of the one Church of Christ (Ephesians 4:3). In the early Christian centuries there were many religions with varieties of initiation practices and very complex ceremonies. Following Christ’s clear injunction the Church chose to have just one significant rite of Water Baptism in which the Holy Spirit of God grafts the believer into Christ and his family the Church.

Here is the Book of Common Prayer’s Catechism definition of Holy Baptism: “In my Baptism…. I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven”. There is no better summary. To be a member of Christ is to be joined and grafted to him and his Body the Church; to be the child of God is to be known and loved by him as his son or daughter with an immeasurable degree of personal loving care. To be an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven is to receive here and now active living membership in God’s present and eternal Kingdom. We shall think about this in the next article.

God of glory, whose radiance shines from the face of Christ, grant us such assurance of your mercy and knowledge of your grace, that believing all your promises, and receiving all you give, we may be transformed into the image of your Son; and with grateful hearts share that self same glory: Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from new Baptismal Rite 1998).