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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


27th April 2008

Fr David Shepherd

Annual Parocial Church Meeting - Chairman’s remarks

New Bushey/Oxhey must remain separate form Watford, so believed Newton Price, St. Matthew’s founding vicar. He was opposing the Vicar of St. Mary’s who thought any new church should be an off shoot of St. Mary’s. In essence it was an argument about who got the fees, Newton Price winning.

Reading this I was struck by how the past gives shape to our present without us realising it. We still feel separate from Watford. Another example came at the opening of the Methodist Church’s new porch. We were told how Trewin, the owner of the store and a keen Methodist funded the new church a hundred years ago. Such paternalism gives shape to that part of Oxhey’s ecclesiastical make up.

We could all list many other examples of invisible boundaries, barriers and relationships still present after their origins have been forgotten. The point is that I believe God calls us to engage with such things imaginatively and constructively, to break free and to move on. Nothing new in this, we can see it in the Acts of the Apostles with its descriptions of the disputes & the dialogues of the early church. (Today we had St. Paul preaching in front of the Areopagus in Athens, relating Christian faith to the ‘unknown God.’)

As we look back on the last year at St. Matthew’s I’m encouraged by the signs of that process happening. We can take pride in a past heritage but we also are called to be open to change.

In our worship we have remained faithful to our tradition whilst becoming more fluid and open to new approaches. Thus in our All Age Eucharists we have adopted a less formal style that seems to have been well received and has drawn some new people into our church. This has also been true of our 11.15 am All Age Service which draws many young families.

Another area is in our relationship with other churches. It is becoming clearer that in future we will have to work more closely with our fellow Watford & Bushey Anglicans, both at a practical level and in the sharing of ministerial resources. (No more separateness)

This is also true at an ecumenical level where our Anglican-Methodist Covenant has seen a growth in friendships with our fellow Christians at BOMC. The Victorian brick built barriers, expressing denominational and political barriers are breached.

A third shift is in our understanding of Christian ministry. The old hierarchical model of an autocratic Newton Price calling the tune is giving way to one in which all Christians recognize and exercise their Christian ministry. In the past the church could be seen as a pyramid with the minister at the top, at most helped by the laity.

Increasingly, not least with the scarcity of stipendiary priests, the pyramid is inverted. The task of the clergy is to enable, support and train the laity in their Christian ministry of service and witness. Rather than seeing this as an inevitable consequence of institutional decline we can see it as something to be positively embraced. By this means God is renewing his church.

So three ways then in which we at St Matthew’s are being called to break down invisible barriers from the past; in our worship, in our relations with other Anglican and non- Anglican Churches and in our understanding of mission and ministry. There are many others but that will suffice for now and hopefully get us thinking as we seek to prayerfully discern God’s will for us in this place.

Finally I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody on behalf of St. Matthew’s for your ongoing support, for your stewardship of time, talents and resources, for your prayers and your pastoral care one for another.

We give thanks to God for all that he has been to us in the past, for all that he is in our present and for all that he will be in the future.

Amen

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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at webmaster@stmatthewsoxhey.org.uk Last updated 26/04/2008 08:30 Author: David Shepherd