14 JULY, 2013 Sermon in CR church. TRINITY 7. PROPER 10. TRACK 2. (John Keble 1866)

(1) Deut 30:9-14 (2) Ps 25:1-10 (3) Gal 1:1-14 (4) Luke 10:25-37.

When the first brethren came here, we are told they were mostly Christian Socialists, who were sure society needed to be changed. At that time the Duchess of Devonshire gave a fancy dress ball in celebration of Queen Victoria ’s Golden Jubilee. A book has been written all about it and about the people who attended and the lives they lived. They were incredibly rich and incredibly idle, spending their time travelling from one country estate to another. The beautiful Bolton Abbey is one such place.

That was the year our infant community decided to move from the leafy environs of Oxford and go to the most industrial place in the country – Manchester . They were too high church for the Bishop, so they came here, to the second most industrial part of the country. Everywhere black with soot, coal smoke belching out of every chimney, to this house built on the profits of the labour of men, women and children, sweating out their short lives in the poisonous air of cloth mills.

It may have been a bit naïve to think the preaching of CR brethren could make a difference but it was the skill they had and their presence the offering they had to make. Today there’s not much demand for preaching or retreat conducting.  Instead, people seem to want to come to us, to be with us, in the atmosphere created by regular worship. Not just the cultivated, polite, well-groomed - even deferential - reteatants we’re used to, who treat us with respect and love but the disturbed, the addicted, the desperate.

We know they are our neighbours because we recognise their conditions in ourselves.

The offering of our presence in this economically deprived post-industrial area is the best we have to make.

If the love, joy, peace, the compassion, which are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of thanksgiving, fill our hearts, we’ll be sustained in our pilgrim community life – just like St Paul in prison as he awaited his martyrdom. Or like Jesus, when he went up to Jerusalem , well knowing what awaited him, betrayal, abandonment, death.

        Antony Grant CR