The Student Cross pilgrimage to Walsingham, Saturday 23rd – Sunday 31st March: walking 20 miles per day, carrying a life-size Cross, praying and sharing together Holy Week. An extraordinarily graced opportunity.
The Student Cross website contains our route page has information about our route and our booking page has the form available too.
We are on facebook too facebook event for the pilgrimage this year and a facebook group
Religion and Personal Life
Organised and chaired by the Rt Hon Charles Clarke and Prof Linda Woodhead
What does faith, in its diversity, have to contribute to our understanding of a good life and a good death? And what does the contemporary climate of opinion have to say to faith?
Each debate brings together a range of religious and secular voices to discuss controversial issues, informed by recent research and new findings from a specially commissioned YouGov survey.
Stem cell research, abortion and the ‘soul of the embryo’?
Prof John Harris, Dr Gerard J Hughes SJ, Prof David Albert Jones, Dr Abdul Majid Katme
Weds 13th Feb
Too much sex these days – the sexualisation of society?
Prof Donna Freitas, Dr Jenny Taylor, Maureen Kendler, TBA
Weds 27th Feb
Is it right for religions to treat men and women differently?
Fatima Barkatullah, Rabbi Harvey Belovski, Marie Ann Sieghart, Prof Linda Woodhead
Thurs 14th March
What’s a traditional family and do we need it?
Prof Rosalind Edwards, Polly Toynbee, Prof Ronald Hutton, TBA
Weds 27th March
Do Christians really oppose same-sex marriage?
Prof Stephen Holmes, Prof John Milbank. Prof Tina Beattie, Lord Deben (John Selwyn Gummer)
Thurs 18th April
Should we legislate to permit assisted dying?
Lord Charles Falconer, Dr Giles Fraser, Baronness Illora Finlay, Prof Rob George
Thurs 2nd May
All debates are free of charge and take place between 5.30 pm and 7.00 pm (followed by drinks reception) at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster SW1P 3EE
To register for a place please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the name, institution (if applicable) and email address of each person you wish to register, or tel. 01524 510826
Funded by the AHRC, ESRC and Lancaster University
http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates-2013 for further details.
8.15, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, High Street, Tuesday 12 February
Sermon in the week of prayer for Christian Unity 20th January 2013
Oxford Catholic Chaplaincy by Rev’d Dr. Jonathan Arnold, Chaplain, Worcester College.
Isaiah 62: 1-5; Ps 95; 1 Cor 12: 4-11; Jon 2: 1-11
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
It is very good to be with you this morning in this week of prayer for Christian Unity and thank you to Father Simon for the invitation to preach. I’m also very much looking forward to Fr. Nicholas King from Campion Hall preaching at Worcester Chapel this evening.
At college each Monday in term I hold a discussion group over lunch. This term we are looking at the ten commandments, so of course last Monday we considered the first one: ‘I am the lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me’. In the chat, we discussed how, in a multi-faith, pluralist and partly secular society, this commandment was to be kept whilst respecting each other’s faith. Can Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians all believe they are right and yet genuinely respect each other’s beliefs? One answer that emerged was the metaphor that people had been told at school, that we are all like blindfolded people trying to describe an elephant purely by the sense of touch. The person at the trunk end has a completely different idea of what the animal is than the person at the tail end or at the side. This, apparently, is how different people approach their notion of God. Each person has part of the truth but no individual or religion or denomination has the whole truth, and yet everyone is talking about the same God.
Now, I had never come across this analogy before and initially I thought it was fine and it created much merriment. But it also left me feeling uneasy. It seemed to be, frankly, a little bland – that everyone has a little bit of the truth but no one can ever have a chance of a full revelation of God. The idea that there is one big truth that everyone can see a little part of and yet which no one can fully comprehend seems appealing, but we are still left with the questions of who has the truth and who is being deceived, and surely someone must be more right than someone else? And if no one can ever get anywhere near the truth, and everyone’s view is equally valid, why bother looking for enlightenment at all? I rather think that many secularists have done precisely that. Given the plethora of religions and spiritualities out there they shrug their shoulders and say, well might as well believe nothing.
In this week of prayer for Christian unity I find myself unified with other Christians, in all our diversity, in a religion in which I can wholeheartedly believe, as I would expect a good Muslim to wholeheartedly believe in his or her religion, without the need for aggression against another’s point of view, or complacency about all religions. Indeed, having to assess just what we believe and why can be a very positive exercise. One can find that struggling with the more difficult questions of our faith is well worth while and very good for us. When I was researching for a book recently I interviewed the Scottish Catholic composer James MacMillan who related an interesting story about when he was at University and how his Chaplain arranged a forum for just this kind of scrutiny of faith:
In Edinburgh, my chaplain there was a young man, Aidan Nicholls. He laid on these talks [entitled] ‘Objections to Catholicism’, and it was just one speaker after another coming in and laying into our faith. It was a dialogue. They presented their objections to faith. Some of them were Marxist, some of them were atheists of a pre-Dawkins type and some of them were of an extreme Protestant type – Ian Paisley type figures. I think a lot of students were absolutely shocked. Not just shocked by the aggression but shocked by hearing strident opposition to the faith for the first time, and saw their faith was not just challenged but undermined by it. But that’s the risk you’ve got to take. Some of us took a different line – let’s deal with the objections head on and try to enunciate our response. I think that’s what happens in these days of increased aggression against Christianity. The Church will get better for it and purify itself. I think it already has become less slovenly in its actions as well as in its thoughts. I’m quite excited about it. It may be unpleasant at times but I feel it’s doing us good.
I like James’ attitude. He has a firm idea of what he believes and has not been shy in making that public, but he is also delighted to hold dialogue with those of differing opinions, not because he goes into a belligerent position of insisting his truth over anothers, nor shrugs his shoulders to say that we are all correct in our own way, but welcoming the opportunity to scrutinize his own stance and to be forced to justify it. Diversity of opinion in our society does not have to lead to aggression or banality. As St. Paul tells the community in Corinth, there are many different roles and positions to take but there is unity in the Spirit. This acknowledges that real truth is to be found in the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ himself, our salvation and our example is one of supreme generosity, as we heard in the story of the Wedding at Cana, providing the best possible wine even at the end of days of celebrations. God’s generosity is in abundance in creation; in nature, in art, and in love and his ultimate sacrifice for us. Of course, it is our tragedy that it is so often squandered by greed, corruption and selfishness or power. Christ assured his disciples that after him would come the Spirit that would lead them into all truth and that same Spirit which came upon the disciples is there for us today. So how do we gain access to this Spirit of truth, to this unity in the Spirit? For, surely the Holy Spirit provides the strength for all Christians to find unity and harmony in our relations, whilst keeping our own identities and characters, and we must not just pray for a closer bond of love in this week of prayer for unity but throughout the year, both in our silent petitions and by our prayer in action, reaching out to one another in that same Spirit given by God.
So where do we start? Perhaps today’s psalm provides a clue. The Psalms speak of our humanity in all its experience and emotion. As the Christian philosopher Roger Scruton puts it, ‘Every single possible religious attitude is expressed in them … The fact that the Psalms are in all our church services, both Anglican and Catholic, gives them a special place …’.
Psalm 95 particularly shows us where we should place ourselves in the picture.
O come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
Our response to God’s generosity is joy, music, is the bow down and to worship , to sing and be joyful for all the blessings he has given us, and to be one in our gratitude, our praise, our worship, our prayer, and our love for God and for one another, and so follow the two great commandments to love our God and our neighbour.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
For God has given us every possible blessing in Jesus Christ, who understands our suffering, pain, and loss as well as our joy and our happiness. He is with all of us in everything, and especially in this season of Epiphany we rejoice in his revelation to the world. This week, and every week, may we continue to pray for unity of love and purpose of the diverse Christian denominations throughout the world, and let’s also rejoice in the source of our faith and his generosity to us that has brought us life, and life eternal. Thanks be to God. Amen.
I’m sure that, like me, many of you were glued to the Olympics over the summer. One of the reasons I enjoyed the Games so much was that it was so refreshing to get excited about winning, about who is fastest or strongest, who is the greatest in a particular sport or race. It felt good to celebrate achievement, when it so often seems that in today’s Britain achievement is something to be ashamed of: Everyone’s a winner; it’s the taking part that matters, we should all get gold stars just for being. As if being the greatest is somehow offensive, or impolitic, or contrary to some nebulous notion of diversity.
Actually, the world is rather more comfortable with ambition, and achievement, and self-promotion. You are number one; Nobody loves a loser; nice guys finish last—these echo deep values of our contemporary world. There are no gold medals and adulation for those who come last. It’s that sort of mindset that see in the disciples in this morning’s Gospel. Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem and says that there he will suffer and die. Far from expressing sorrow or sympathy, James and John skip the thought of suffering and move to the thought of resurrection and ask Jesus to let them sit at his right and left when he enters his glory. They want to be more important than anyone else. They want position, and power, and status. They want to win! Jesus answers that they may get what they ask for, but they certainly will follow his way of suffering.
But then the other 10 disciples also miss the point and start shouting at James and John for they too want some share in power. Earlier in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus predicted that he would suffer their reaction was to argue about who would be the greatest, who would be first.
Jesus then gives them a lesson on what power should be among those who follow him – those who followed him then, and those who choose to be his disciples today. Gentile rulers lord it over their subjects, and their great ones throw their weight around. Throughout the Gospel of Mark Jesus describes the way things work in the world – in a world that lives apart from the message he proclaims: what people want for themselves: self-centeredness; saving one’s own life; acquiring the world; being great; lording it over others; being anxious about wealth. But Jesus rejects this way in a ringing statement. “But it shall not be so among you. ”
“But it shall not be so among you.”
Jesus speaks of his way of being powerful which is paradoxically the way of the loser:
Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus points not to a way of being number one, of lording it over and dominating others, but a way of service. True followers are to be available to others with help and service. If we must compete with each other, we must compete in this way. We must outdo each other in doing good. Jesus gives himself as an example of such service; he did not come to be waited on by others but to serve and give his life for others. Throughout the Gospel Jesus serves by being with the sick and suffering of this world, by feeding the hungry and speaking up for those who are weak and oppressed and marginalised and forgotten and despised. And he will give his life as a ransom. A ransom is a price paid to free. The price paid to free us from slavery – slavery to this world, slavery to ourselves. Jesus’ offering was to be a liberating offering and we his followers are to be engaged in liberating service. We are to help free each other from all that would bind us and imprison us.
In simple terms the Gospel calls on us, you and I, contemporary followers of Jesus, to reject a life-path that leads to power and dominance of others – be that in the Church, or in business, or in college, or in our everyday relationships and personal encounters. So often it is among ordinary Christians that we see the example of Jesus lived out. This liberating service shines forth in parents at the bed of a sick child, in a spouse caring for another with Alzheimer’s disease; in a person like St Marianne Cope who spent her life caring for the lepers of Hawaii – St Marianne, incidentally is being canonised by the Holy Father this very morning; in a person like Sr. Dorothy Stang, a Notre Dame sister who was murdered in Brazil in 2005 for protesting the exploitation of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. And whose last words as she was shot in the head were “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.
We do not have to look to Hawaii or Brazil to find examples of liberating service. Here at the Chaplaincy there is the SVP, there is CAFOD, and the Companions of the Order of Malta; our city has numerous organisations and institutions to serve the homeless, the abused, those who need shelter, a hot meal, a new start. But opportunities of service, real Christian service, liberating and life-giving service, are never far from us – they exist in the Church and outside, among strangers and friends, even in our own families and communities. Today is Mission Sunday, and such service is at the very heart of the Church’s Mission – it IS the Church’s mission. Our mission is not to be served, but to serve, and to give our lives.
Of course, we are to think and to pray specifically today about the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel, the Good News of our Redemption in Christ. That Gospel can only effectively spread and take root in the hearts and minds of those who do not yet know Jesus if those charged with preaching it – that’s you and me – live lives of service, really give of ourselves, really show our beliefs in the way we act and the way we love.
Those of you who are students know that your task at university is to learn and grow to the best of your abilities – and there is certainly a lot of competition here – both good and bad. But your fundamental, Christian task as human beings is not to be number one, but to become real losers, nice guys (and girls) who finish last – that is, last in the game of exploiting others and in pursuing selfish life goals, but who lose yourselves in serving others. After all Jesus said that the one who loses his or her life will save it, that is find true life – true, real, abundant, amazing, grace-filled life, in community with others and in union with Christ.