The View from the Vicarage: All Gods Children

Welcome to my blog, we have been walking through the Acts of the Apostles and today we arrive at Jerusalem with St Paul, he has said tearful goodbyes and has been told to expect hardship and imprisonment as he does Gods will.

In Acts Chapter 22 we have the details of Paul’s defence as he has been arrested and taken in chains to the barracks by Roman Soldiers. The defence is eloquent and speaks of Pauls upbringing, his training his zealousness as a Jew, his conversion and his ministry. Yet the moment for me that really stuck home today is when the Roman Commander finds out that Paul is a Roman Citizen, he is alarmed that he and his soldiers have treated a citizen of Rome in such a terrible way.

The Acts of the Apostles is full of such moments where equality is challenged,  encounters that begin to point towards unity and we have looked at some of those over the last few weeks.

Today we stand in a hard and difficult world, on one hand we have COVID19 bringing our communities together in new and exciting ways despite its tragedy and cost in lives, on the other we see the evil of racism in our world.

The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath leave us deeply troubled, we as a world have not learnt the most basic of lessons – we are all God’s children, we are all citizens of the same humanity, created in the image of God himself. White supremacy is nothing short of evil, black lives matter.

As Christians we must shout from the roof tops that we can do nothing less than treat every human being of every colour race and creed as made in beautiful image of God. We are all God’s children and anything less unacceptable.

We must also begin with ourselves, we often have buried in ourselves forms of discrimination that are shaped by the society we have been brought up in, this is known as unconscious bias. We must repent of our own short comings but also we must stand up in the name of Jesus Christ, in the name of justice and let the world know this is not how it should be.

Let us start with ourselves as we pray for unity, start with our own hearts as we yearn for the healing of evil that is racial discrimination and let us offer our prayers for all Gods children everywhere. Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “In a real sense, we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Therefore, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In the words of Bishop Michael Curry we must all make “a daily decision to live in the way of love … when we all do that, we win.”

I leave you with a hymn some people of around my age may remember from school, written by Sydney Carter in 1965 its speaks of what a global family, being all God’s children might dare to look like. WE need to be global neighbours right now – all God’s Children.

When I needed a neighbour, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty, were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

I was cold, I was naked, were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

When I needed a shelter, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter, were you there?

When I needed a healer, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer, were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

Wherever you travel I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
wherever you travel I’ll be there. 

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there? *

Your friend and Vicar


196 Sydney Carter Reproduced by kind permission CCLI 285604




The View from the Vicarage: Pentecost

Welcome to my blog, we move back to the day of Pentecost as we celebrate the birthday of the church and the promised gift of the Holy Spirit In Acts 2:1-21

This year of all years I am struck by the coming of the Spirit upon the gathered few, who met in safety. We as a church are meeting in safety, we are using technology and social media, and the Holy Spirit is still with us, with you and with me.

When the spirit comes to those believers it will change their lives; everything will take on new meaning; their lives will become open to the pain and suffering of others but also the hope of a world transformed.  This is their story yet it is ours too.

We are called to enter into the continuing drama of God’s new creation in the world. To enter into the realities of this world with all its hopes and greatness and all it suffering and disaster. Even though we cannot meet together just yet, we are called though our prayer, care and witnessing to be his church even in lockdown.

Pentecost is the moment when God Breathes again; in his first breath he moved over the waters of creation, that same breath of God, which hovers over the womb of Mary, the same breath that Jesus gave to his disciples in the upper room.

The breath of Pentecost transformed tired and disciples into a people full of confidence and boldness and it still does, it ushers in a new tomorrow, it ignites hope, it unites humanity.

Commenting on Pentecost St John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in 4th century said “It is not for lack of miracles that the church is stagnant; it is because we have forsaken the angelic life of Pentecost, and fallen back on private property. If we lived as they did, with all things common, we should soon convert the whole world without any need of miracles at all.”

Pentecost and the breath of the Spirit helps the believers to overcome self-preservation and greed and leads them to live the way of Jesus. Speaking in different languages was a moment where all who could hear could receive this new message, in their own tongue as we see barriers overcome by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy  Spirit breathes across national boundaries and interests, structures and differences to bring together a people, seeking to live in the power of the new creation – a new tomorrow; giving courage to ordinary people to break with traditions, to be open to the new, to let truth invade into their own experiences of reality and reach out to the world around them.

This is the call of Pentecost to us. With the coming of the Spirit upon the gathered few, who meet in safety and collected holiness . We are living in challenging times right now, we are seeing tragedy all around us and yet we are at the beginning of something new, as a world, as a society and as a church.

I leave you with my favourite hymn of Pentecost by the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth:

1. Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame,
Send the fire!
Thy blood-bought gift today we claim,
Send the fire!
Look down and see this waiting host,
Give us the promised Holy Ghost;
We want another Pentecost,
Send the fire today!

2. God of Elijah, hear our cry:
Send the fire!
To make us fit to live or die,
Send the fire!
To burn up every trace of sin,
To bring the light and glory in,
The revolution now begin,
Send the fire today!

3. ’Tis fire we want, for fire we plead,
Send the fire!
The fire will meet our every need,
Send the fire!
For strength to ever do the right,
For grace to conquer in the fight,
For pow’r to walk the world in white,
Send the fire today!

4. To make our weak hearts strong and brave,
Send the fire!
To live a dying world to save,
Send the fire!
Oh, see us on Thy altar lay
Our lives, our all, this very day;
To crown the off’ring now we pray,
Send the fire today!

Your friend and Vicar


The View from the Vicarage: Persistent Patience

Welcome to my blog as I take a walk through the Acts of the Apostles and offer some short reflections on what I believe it may be saying to us as a church and as individuals, particularly in this time of change and of transformation and in a world of restriction and limitation but with new beginnings on the horizon.

After spending time with Paul in Athens The View from the Vicarage: Into the Marketplace and then in Corinth The View from the Vicarage: Sticking to Religion we find ourselves with Paul in Ephesus in Acts 19:1-22.

There is much that could be picked up on in this passage, there are amazing encounters, conversions and demon possession but those are not the things which I have reflected on, for me it is the underlying theme of all that is happening through Paul.

In verse 8-10 we read “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”

Paul does not turn up like a guest preacher for a day and move on, this is not a quick tour, this calling of St Paul, of the early church is one of real commitment to place, to people and to Jesus Christ. Not only is there a real commitment, there is a real patience. Despite opposition Paul stays 3 months before moving on from the synagogue.

The commitment of the early church seems to me to be a ‘persistent patience’ they have ground breaking, world changing good news and to share that requires this ‘persistent patience’.

After 10 weeks of lockdown we all know how frustrating life can be in very new ways, but alongside that we have all learnt to live with a persistent patience as we have stayed at home, saved lives and protected the NHS.

As a church we have felt those limitations on our worshipping life very keenly. We cannot meet together, we were unable to celebrate Easter together, we have not been able to share in the meal Jesus gave us since March 15th at St Matthew & St Wilfrid’s. Yet we have learnt new ways of pastoral care, reached out to new people online and above all learned that virtue of persistent patience. As we move on to our new tomorrow we will need to practice that even more – things will not go back to the way they were in our churches for some time to come, we will need to find new ways of doing things and may have let go of others.

The early church grew exponentially and became the church of Jesus Christ by practicing persistent patience, we need to practice that persistent patience as we seek to move on to that new tomorrow while recovering our identity as the people of Jesus.

This year in the Diocese of Durham we planned 2020 as a year of pilgrimage, little did we know what kind of pilgrimage we would be on – as we move on together in this new world I leave you with a wonderful hymn all about pilgrimage and persistent patience by John Bunyan:

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He’ll with a giant fight,
He will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.

Your friend and Vicar



The View from the Vicarage: Sticking to Religion

Welcome to my blog as I travel through the key moments of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles, if you have been travelling with me we were last in Athens with Paul before taking a detour back to the Ascension. Today we move from Athens to Corinth as we find Paul wrapped up in more controversy in Acts 18:1-17.

Corinth was always going to be a difficult gig, it was a huge commercial city that came with its own sense of arrogance, a place that would not be told. It was also a hive of sexual immorality. This is a place where Paul becomes scared, he speaks out in the name of Jesus Christ speaking to the Jewish believers about their messiah – they reject him with such vehemence that he feels he must leave.

In a dream God speaks to him, reassures him of his protection and convinces him to continue this mission, We know from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that this never became an easy task. Paul goes on to preach to the gentiles in Corinth and is hauled before the proconsul by the Jews in an attempt to quieten him for ‘speaking against the law’

In the court case that ensues Gallio the pro-consul refuses to listen, he absolves Paul and gives him the protection of Roman law and the freedom of speech which will form a precedent that will later see the Roman Empire accept Christianity as its own religion and transform the Empire completely.

The opposition in Corinth in both this reading and the letters seems to stem from the fact that believing in Jesus is going to change the way people feel, work, act – that you cannot say you believe and not let it impact upon your life – in essence this Christianity is too much cant we just stick to religion.

The church is often told to ‘stick to religion’ and not speak out and yet the very act of sticking to religion IS to speak out and challenge the world around us, why? Because there is a better way to live and be, a way that looks to the other, that cares for the earth, that seeks to challenge the unjust structures of our society. God loves each and everyone of us, he created us in his image and there is so much more to life for us all, Christianity is life changing and world changing.

For William Wilberforce ‘sticking to religion’ meant speaking out against the transatlantic slave trade that dehumanised millions, most of the foodbanks in the UK are run by churches or church partnerships, this is because ‘sticking to religion’ means feeding the hungry and speaking out against poverty for the Christian Church.

That is the church we must be in our day, there is nothing new under the sun, it was the same for the prophets, for Jesus and St Paul – we need to ‘stick to religion’ by reaching out in love and in challenge to a world that is hurting, a world that needs to know Jesus as it’s Lord and Saviour.

So I leave you with a hymn as always:

Jesus Christ is waiting,
Waiting in the streets;
No one is his neighbour,
All alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger,
Fit to wait on you

Jesus Christ is raging,
Raging in the streets,
Where injustice spirals
And real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am angry too.
In the Kingdom’s causes
Let me rage with you.

Jesus Christ is healing,
Healing in the streets;
Curing those who suffer,
Touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I have pity too.
Let my care be active,
Healing just like you.

Jesus Christ is dancing,
Dancing in the streets,
Where each sign of hatred
He, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I should triumph too.
On suspicion’s graveyard
Let me dance with you.

Jesus Christ is calling,
Calling in the streets,
”Who will join my journey?
I will guide their feet.”
Listen, Lord Jesus,
Let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me;
I will follow you. *

Your friend and vicar


*©1988 WGRG, Iona Community, Govan, Glasgow G51 3UU, Scotland

The View from the Vicarage: Ascension – COVID19 Hope

Today is Ascension day, if you have been following the blog my apologies as we skip back to Acts Chapter 1:1-11 to think about what this day means and what it means for us in a COVID 19 world.

Ascension as we follow the reading seems to be all about power and victory – but what does that mean as the death rate has soared and families have been torn apart by loss and grief?

The disciples are hearing words about power that is to be given to them but the power that comes with Ascension is to be given away not hung onto.

Jesus never clung to power. He was not surrounded by public adoration, he trod a difficult path that involved significant sacrifice. We have already seen in our studies of the Acts of the Apostles that the church still grew, despite opposition and suffering. We see that the disciples who seemed selfish and foolhardy were willing to lay down their lives, confident in the victory of Christ.

Ascension is about power and victory – but not as the world sees it. The outcome of life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is that do not have to be trapped in the despair and disease of our world any longer. It means that there is only one inevitability: the promised return of Jesus

The Christian path is a path of suffering because the path of Jesus was a path of suffering. Not miserable suffering, but a path that is full of the presence of Christ and also the presence of suffering and difficulty

So many have been taken by COVID19 the daily briefing bring their agonies to us direct, yet this need not to be a path of lonely suffering, for the church is a family of witnesses to the reality of Jesus. People staying at home has saved people’s lives, and people have done so much to support communities, foodbanks, neighbours because suffering is healed by being part of community, by supporting one another and for us that means in the name of Jesus Christ.

What next?  Well what could be more important than the message Jesus’s followers are left to proclaim?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It seems that ascension has set our destination, and our mission to change our world; we are never to despair, we are always to endure, we must not forget to rejoice and remember to celebrate while still patiently enduring suffering – knowing that the victory of Jesus the Christ is certain.

Today sees the beginning of Thy Kingdom Come a time of prayer from Ascension to Pentecost where we pray that more people will come to Jesus – so here is the challenge: think of five people that you want to know Jesus and pray for them – pray that they may know the light his presence and promises sheds on this harsh and difficult world.

I leave you with a hymn as usual, this time from the early 1700s by hymn writer Isaac Watts:

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does its successive journeys run,
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.

To him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song,
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his name.

Blessings abound where’er he reigns:
the prisoners leap to lose their chains,
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who suffer want are blest.

Let every creature rise and bring
the highest honors to our King,
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen.

Your friend and vicar


The View from the Vicarage: Into the Marketplace

Our reading today takes as to Athens with St Paul, in Acts 17:16-34 we find St Paul engaging with the Jews in the Synagogue ‘as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there’

This encounter in the market place leads to an incredible conversion of some of the philosophers who wanted to hear more about Jesus and how he related to their own understanding of God. The philosophers take St Paul to the meeting of the Areopagus (an early aristocratic council) to quiz him over his teaching. Paul responds:

“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

St Paul then spoke of this God:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  ….. For in him we live and move and have our being.’

This conversion only took place because the conversation took place outside of the Synagogue. St Paul had to go into the market place to hear the concerns of everyday folk and not just the institutionalised religion of the day. St Paul engaged with all rather than staying on safer ground, rather than sticking to the way all things had been and were done.

Today is St Dunstan’s day, Dunstan was an Archbishop of Canterbury who lived from 909AD to 988AD and is particularly known for his reformation of the church and early monastic life. It was St Dunstan that asked questions about doing things in a new way, about a changing church for a changing world – he like St Paul was not scared to try new things in order to reach people in the name of Jesus.

Right now it seems like we have had the changes the church is going through imposed upon us but I believe God is blessing us through them. As we broadcast online services we are more in the market place than we have ever been, even if we do sorely miss our sacred space.

As we move on the lesson today is from the early church and St Dunstan, we need to embrace this new world, we need to change things as the world changes but without losing sight of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So as we take our wary steps into the market place to a world that Jesus loved , died and rose again for I leave you with a 17th century hymn by Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate that re-assures us of Gods presence “through all the changing scenes of life”

Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.

O magnify the Lord with me,
with me exalt his name!
when in distress, to him I called
he to my rescue came.

The hosts of God encamp around
the dwellings of the just;
his saving help he gives to all
who in his mercy trust.

O taste his goodness, prove his love!
experience will decide
how blessed they are, and only they,
who in his truth confide.

Fear him, you saints, and you will then
have nothing else to fear;
his service shall be your delight,
your needs shall be his care.

To Father, Son and Spirit, praise!
to God whom we adore
be worship, glory, power and love,
both now and evermore!


Your friend and vicar

The View from the Vicarage: A New Future

Its been a few days since I last posted a blog, and time has also passed in the Acts of the Apostles as we stride on from the calling of Paul and Barnabas in The View from the Vicarage: Called by God to another significant encounter that might help us understand the early church and it’s relevance to us today. Today we meet Lydia in Acts 16:11-15 and we hear her remarkable story.

We come across Lydia on the sabbath where she attends prayers by the river with a group of other women. We can assume that Lydia was a practicing Jew and that this may have been a lifelong commitment as there was a significant colony of Jews in her home of  Thyatira. The reason for the riverside prayer group was probably a lack of enough Jewish men in Philippi to establish a synagogue.

We know that Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth, at the time Thyatira was famous for its manufacture of purple die, as purple cloth denoted authority and royalty it is likely that Lydia had moved to the Roman colony as an independent business woman.

As Paul sits down and speaks we hear “the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” she is then baptised and invites them back to her house. Lydia is the first recorded European convert to Christianity but that is not her only significant role, if we turn to a later verse, verse 40 we hear “After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. ”  Lydia is the founder member of the first Christian Community in this place, one that provided an opportunity to worship, one that provided hospitality and care.

Why is this all significant, because it goes against the perceived rules, Lydia openly speaks to Paul, Lydia as a successful woman, Lydia invites the men into her house, Lydia helps found the Christian movement in Philippi.

As well as the clear message this preaches about the role of women in the church and all aspects of society it speak to me today about our need to move on from what we see as a perceived normality. In our society we are quickly getting used to the fact that a new future awaits each of us individually and corporately, that it will not be the same again. Politicians talk of the ‘new normal’ where as I would rather speak of a ‘new tomorrow.’

In the church this could be a pivotal moment in our existence as we move away from some of those perceived norms and look towards the possibility of a new tomorrow. Lydia’s conversion was a pivotal moment in the early church, lets pray for Gods’ wisdom and guidance as we seek to find a new tomorrow.

Our hymn today was written in 1894 by Arthur Campbell Ainger and is based on Habakkuk 2:14; “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” and for us is a prayer of thanksgiving that God is always at work to realise his will for the church, the world and for humanity.

God is working his purpose out
as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled
with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

From utmost east to utmost west,
wherever foot hath trod,
by the mouth of many messengers
goes forth the voice of God;
give ear to me, ye continents,
ye isles, give ear to me,
that earth may filled
with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

What can we do to work God’s work,
to prosper and increase
the brotherhood of all mankind–
the reign of the Prince of Peace?
What can we do to hasten the time–
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled
with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

March we forth in the strength of God,
with the banner of Christ unfurled,
that the light of the glorious gospel of truth
may shine throughout the world:
fight we the fight with sorrow and sin
to set their captives free,
that earth may filled
with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

All we can do is nothing worth
unless God blessed the deed;
vainly we hope for the harvest-tide
till God gives life to the seed;
yet nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled
with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea

Your friend and vicar


The View from the Vicarage: Called by God

I have been looking at the work of  the Early Church in the Acts of the Apostles in previous weekday blogs.  It has given us the opportunity to reflect on and spend time with key people in the live of that fledgling church, to learn from their calling and apply it to our own right here and now. Today we will look at Acts Chapter 13 and very particularly the sending out of Paul and Barnabas.

It may seem a little odd to talk about sending out when we are staying in but even in our times, and even in lockdown God is still working in his church and the Holy Sprit still calling people to do his work even if that sending out may be metaphorical right now.

The start of the first missionary journey of the church is set out in our chapter today and it involves Paul and Barnabas, but as my title suggests I would like to focus on the choosing and sending of these two missionaries rather than their journey in this blog.

The selection of Paul and Barnabas is the clear work of the Holy Spirit within the church as well as within them individually. The church are worshipping and fasting and the prophets or perhaps even the whole church are instructed that they are to send these men to do “the work for which I have called them”

The spread of the Gospel globally begins here, this where the church begins to become a worldwide church, and it is because God called Paul and Barnabas, because the church through the Holy Sprit heard that call and then because the church commissioned the two and sent them off.

AS a church we need to seek out the giftedness of each other, I often wonder as a Vicar who the Holy Spirit is prompting, who God is calling – not necessarily for to be a missionary or a Vicar but mostly to continue the work of the church, the spread of the gospel, the care of the community in this place.  What I do know is that we are all called, to “the work for which he has called us” and when times change we see new gifts coming out in people as we have in the last few weeks of lockdown. People caring, encouraging, praying, pastoring one another, assisting with those basic needs of others.

As we worship together albeit virtually who is God calling and what is “the work for which he has called you?”

I leave you with another of Charles Wesley’s hymns written in 1749 that speaks of our vocation to follow Christ in “the work for which he has called us”

Forth in your name, O Lord, I go,
my daily labour to pursue,
you only, Lord, resolved to know
in all I think or speak or do.

The task your wisdom has assigned
here let me cheerfully fulfil;
in all my work your presence find,
and prove your good and perfect will.

You may I set at my right hand,
whose eyes my inmost secrets view,
and labour on at your command
and offer all my work to you.

Help me to bear your easy yoke,
in ev’ry moment watch and pray,
and still to things eternal look
and hasten to that glorious day.

Then with delight may I employ
all that your bounteous grace has given,
and run my earthly course with joy,
and closely walk with you in heaven.


Your friend and Vicar




The View from the Vicarage: Firm Foundations

We have come quite a way as we have seen some of the great moments in the early church and there has been much to get excited about but todays passage Acts 12:1-19 reminds us again that being the people of Jesus is not all plain sailing.

If you have with me followed the journey of the early church so far we have seen phenomenal growth. After the day of Pentecost their was the conversion of Samaria this was followed by some wonderful individual accounts, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Saul of Tarsus and yesterday we reflected on Cornelius the Centurion.

Today the bad guy enters stage left, Herod Agrippa I the grandson of Herod the Great ensures the apostle James brother of John is killed and now he imprisons Peter, the growing church is catching more that just our attention, its catching all the wrong kind of attention.

The heart of this passage is Peter’s imprisonment, or should I say Peter’s miraculous release from Prison. That actually is the crux of what is happening here and the basis of my reflection. Whenever the church grows it sees some kind of persecution but that persecution is then met by Gods grace and no matter how many times we see one against the other the Church proves it cannot be beaten. This is however contingent entirely upon the church being built on the solid rock that is Jesus Christ, in order for the church to withstand this kind of disruption and battering it must have firm foundations.

Peter is the apostle chosen by Jesus Christ, here we have one of the churches great leaders, if we flick back to Matthew 16:18 we here these words of Jesus as he names and commissions Simon Peter “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter then in turn (along with the other apostles) ensure the post resurrection church is build on the firm foundations of Jesus Christ.

What wonderful witness as Herod Agrippa I tries to destroy the church by taking Peter from it than his salvation, his release by an Angel of the Lord. Herod has planned to take Peter before the court during the Passover, he should have known better after Pilate had done the same with Jesus only for him to rise again 3 days later.

We have seen our own church disrupted not by persecution but by circumstances, by the terrible tragedy of COVID19 and it is important we continue to do our upmost to protect the vulnerable, and support our NHS by not meeting together in person until it is safe to do so.  We have now not met together since Sunday March 15th in person and yet that firm basis, that rock that is Jesus Christ holds us together as our firm foundation and is helping us grow into something new. Don’t forget Peter though, the road is often fraught and never easy and there will always be trials to come.

As individuals and as a church we must continue to rejoice in Gods saving grace, that he would consider us worthy but also that we would keep our footsteps firm. We must pray for God’s guidance for the future but also his protection and strength. Above all we must never lose sight of our purpose, never lose sight of the Gospel of salvation that is our risen Lord and ensure that the empty cross and the empty tomb remain our firm foundations.

There is only one hymn I could leave you with tonight, one of my favourite hymns, probably the first I ever knew off by heart, written by Charles Wesley in 1783:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Tis mystery all! Th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more. 

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Your friend and Vicar




The View from the Vicarage: The Church and the World

Todays stop on our journey through the Acts of the Apostles takes us to Acts 10:1-23 where we meet Cornelius the Centurion and the Apostle Peter both having visions that will transform the early church in its witness and mission.

As we start looking at this passage we must be clear that here we have the Apostle Peter a Jew who now follows ‘The Way’ the new Christian movement and is one of its leaders as ordained by Christ himself alongside a Roman Officer who is a gentile (or a non-jew).

The history behind this is clouded and tricky but I will try and sum it up briefly, the Jews (Israel) are Gods’ chosen people, they are the elect – they were however chosen to bring the word of God to the whole world and this wasn’t quite how it panned out. Israel got being God’s chosen people mixed up with being his favourites and then began to despise others, they used to refer to Gentiles as ‘dogs’ and saw them as less than human. St Peter is part of that heritage and Cornelius is subject to that heritage.

So we have two visions, the first is that of Cornelius a God-fearing praying man, a Centurion, a gentile, who sees and Angel of the Lord who asks him to call Simon Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ to come to him so he can hear what Peter has to say.

The second vision sees Peter confronted by a large sheet coming from heaven, on the sheet are animals and reptiles all foods forbidden by Jewish law. Peter is told to kill and eat, he is told this three times as he must not call unclean anything that God has made clean.

There s a clear link between the two visions as then Peter comes to the gate to find the servants of Cornelius the God fearing, praying gentile calling for him to come to him. If he cannot call the animals unclean because God has made them clean he must go to Cornelius as an angel appeared to him, surely a person cannot be unclean if God has made them clean.

This is the next pivotal moment in the history of the early church, here we see the gentile mission, a church that leaves behind part of its Jewish heritage as it begins to realise it is not of God. As it begins to realise that being Gods elect does not mean being his favourites.

The church today can be guilty of the very same thing, in lockdown we have opened our services online and many are participating who were unable to join us in our very regimented style of worship at a certain place at a certain time. The services are viewed by many as they go out live and then by many more later. The church is reaching out beyond is traditional attendees and so it must, we are all Gods children – we are all his favourites and that wonderful Easter morning was for us all.

We as a church at St Matthew & St Wilfrid Sunderland are looking to plan our next steps over the next few months, our own roadmap in line with the Governments. We need to ensure that as we do we are reaching all Gods favourites, all for who Christ died and rose again as we do this.

These COVID19 days are horrible but they are passing, these days will and must never be forgotten, we must learn from them and become better people, better followers of Jesus and a better church because of it.

Todays hymn is sometimes called the “National Anthem of Christendom”. It was written by English Anglican-turned-Methodist and later Dissenting preacher Edward Perronet (1726-1792) while he was serving as a missionary in India, and English Baptist minister John Rippon (1751–1836).

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

Crown him, you martyrs of our God,
Who from his altar call;
Praise him whose way of pain you trod

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

O prophets faithful to his word
in matters great and small
who made his voice of justice heard

now crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

All sinners, now redeemed by grace
who heard your saviours call
now robed in light before his face

O crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

Let every tribe and every race
who heard the freedom call,
in liberation, see Christs face

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.

Let every people, every tongue
to him their heart enthral:
Lift high the universal song

and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all.


Your friend and Vicar