Launch of St Hild College
Sermon Preached by Fr George
Guiver, Superior CR
inDewsbury Minster on 14 January 2017, for the launch of St Hild College, which replaces the Yorkshire Ministry Course and continues to operate from it present site within the grounds of CR at Mirfield.
I am old enough to remember the
Beatles. They suddenly hit the headlines and then their popularity soared and
soared. They were carried forward on the crest of a wave and the experience for
them must have been hugely exciting. There are times when a group enterprise can
be like that and the people involved will feel huge satisfaction and excitement
with what they are involved in. You see the same sort of thing in a control room
when a space probe succeeds in its mission and the scientists cheer, wave their
arms in the air and hug each other. It must have been something like that for
the first Christians at Pentecost, if we are to believe the Book of Acts. A
group of people borne up by a tremendous energy, as it were on the crest of a
Well, the Beatles have come and
gone. Space-probes pass on to oblivion.
With the first Christians there was something different from normal elation of a
human group. This energy came from the resurrection of Christ from the dead and
that never dries up.
The launch of St Hild College
is an exciting moment, I am sure, for everyone involved. It is different from
launching a space programme, or getting into the charts. We know it has to be a
response to the sovereign call of God. It will be imperfect, as every human
enterprise is but St Hild isn’t a merely human enterprise; it is a Christian
one and the dynamic is different. I can give the example of my community, the
Community of the Resurrection. It seems to do things which excite a lot of
people and there is a buzz about the place but if we, the Brothers, look at each
other, we are also conscious of how imperfect we are, of misunderstandings,
occasionally conflict and disagreement and things about one another that can be
difficult or even exasperating. God’s activity, however, is bigger than us. He
seems to do it all despite us. Some of you will know the joke that one of our
older Brothers once cracked - that if ever one of us were murdered, the police
would have a difficult job, because they would find that everyone had a motive.
That is a joke but it illustrates the miracle which Christian community can be.
The Gospel has the power to bring everyone together.
The original meaning of the
word ‘college’ is of a group of people who are held together. That, of
course, is central to the Gospel. The Church aims to hold together the most
unlikely people and it expects us all to rub shoulders together; rich and poor,
the academic and the labourer, the foreigner and the outsider. All these
differences go out of the window and through our life of prayer and worship and
rooting in the Scriptures, we receive grace: to be changed from a motley
bunch to the People of God.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst.
Once you were no people, now you are God’s people.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
All members of the body, though
many, are one body.
In a few moments we shall light
our candles from the Easter candle; each of our candles lit from one flame. You
could say that when we do this, we, being many, are one flame. All these candles
carry but one flame. Jesus speaks about this flame in this evening’s reading
from Matthew. We are to be a lamp set on a stand.
A lamp does two things: first of all it gives you light to see by. It enables us to see with God’s eyes; to see the world differently; to see people differently. The Christians who help to run food banks or who work to reconcile people in conflict, or who care for the homeless are seeing human beings with different eyes.
This light helps us to see human difference differently. All around us we can see a wrong handling of difference. The needless clashes between nations, the clashes of interest in politics, disagreements within families, racism, rejection of foreigners, thinking ourselves better than others, sheer differences of opinion and of outlook. Jesus calls us to see all those sources of conflict in a different light, the light cast by his lamp and to deal with them in a different way: to be the servants of others, to submit ourselves one to another, to turn the other cheek, to shun tribalisms and parties, to be neither for Apollos nor for Paul but for Christ. The light of Christ reveals everything in a different light .
The second function of the lamp
is to guide people in the darkness, like a lighthouse guides ships at sea. Our
way of living should draw people to it, as to a lamp in the darkness. Let your
light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to
your Father in heaven.
Jesus isn’t so rash as to say
that we are like that automatically: he just says we need to let our lamp shine.
Does the church in this country let its lamp shine? What can we say about the
people of God in Britain at the moment? We are a temple built of living stones
but a temple built of living stones is always going to be a bit wobbly. That’s
a sign of life. However, what we seem to see in large parts of the church is
something different: a loss of wind.
Many of our lamps seem to be
short on oil. Many people struggle with prayer, both laity and clergy.
They have a need to learn how to pray. That is an extraordinary situation to be
in. There is a problem about commitment; people can easily fall away. We are
losing young people. We have financial problems but you have to say on that,
that if the wind were in our sails, the finance would look after itself.
So our mission at this moment
needs to be twofold. First of all mission to the Church. Faith needs to be
rekindled in many Christians and one task of bodies like St Hild College is to
build up its students in the treasures of God, so that they can go out into the
Church as lamplighters. The church is full of life: we need to help all the
baptised to tap into it.
This can only happen if we are
also looking outwards. Without looking outwards, renewal of the Church is
impossible. We find ourselves by looking beyond ourselves. The words of Isaiah
we have just heard are as fresh as they were thousands of years ago: “I have
given you as … a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind. To
bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in
darkness”. We would want to add: to set people free from individualism and
centring on self, to enable young people to have a solid foundation to their
life, to bring belonging to people who are isolated, to bring to our consumer
society a sense of eternal things, to bring justice to the poor and oppressed
and the love of God to our society with all its ills. This mission is more than
a social programme; it is about the spreading of the kingdom of God.
So we pray today for the
prospering of Saint Hild College in all its diversity, bringing together people
from many traditions many localities, churchmanships, denominations and
backgrounds; the treasures of the Church, to be loved and rejoiced in, because
there is a message to be proclaimed, a job to be done and a light to be shone.