The Bishop of Edmonton’s Sermon – 3rd July 2016
Local residents and stakeholders joined the Bishop of Edmonton and the Archdeacon of Hampstead to celebrate the new church at OneStonegrove. Met by a multicultural and cross-generational congregation, our guests ordained Wilberforce Hall and the new chapel as licensed places of worship.
Read the Bishop of Edmonton’s sermon below:
Thank you to everyone at St Peter’s this morning – for your vision, for your imagination. Thank you to the property team of the Dicoese of London for your support and help. Thank you to Cllr Cornelious and to the team at Barnet Council for your dedication to the people of this community, and for your partnership. Thank you to Barratts and to others who actually build and make such new environments possible. Thank you, and very importantly to the community of Stone grove, for all of you who have been supportive, and for all of you who have been prophetic and difficult. As change of any community, and indeed any community space, does make us all feel threatened and slightly uncomfortable those who are to be affected must be listened to, and the voice of the local community must be heard. Thank you to all.
It is remarkable timing that we are formally opening this new church and centre at the beginning of a new week- following all the events of last week, and indeed the last month. Whether we are responding to the Referendum, the murders of Jo Cox, those members of the gay community in the club in Orlando or those using Istanbul airport, or the metaphorical knifing of Boris Johnson by Michael Gove, we are surrounded by fear, brokenness and vanity. Trust in our institutions continues to erode, and at the same time there is a distinct rise in race hate crime as the national political classes remain as out of touch as ever with the lives of everyday people who are trying to make a living, and provide for their families.
This is why is remarkable. Here, at the new St Peter’s, we see hope. In a unique, because Stonegrove, like any estate, is unique, way, a distinct partnership of Church, Local Authority, housing developer and local community have dared to dream a dream. We have dared to work collaboratively, and employed something which can be seen as a bit of a rare commodity- and that is imagination. We have prayed, we have worked hard, and we have achieved in the bricks and mortar of this place. So again, thank you.
But, I have to admit, and this is a difficult thing, that the hard work now begins. Once we have achieved a great building such as this one, it must be used, lived in, and made to sweat. Our world needs all community leaders to act in partnership, as we break down the barriers the divide our communities. You have achieved this with the new building. How will you achieve this with the harder work in the community?
We cannot be precious about a new building, as people- and it is people that matter, people need to thrive here, flourish here, and be listened to here.
I am profoundly moved by the Bible reading that we have just heard from Isaiah chapter 54. In it, In Isaiah’s particular style, we are reminded that one of the images that the church lives with is that of the bride of Christ, or God’s bride.
Here, we are challenged by this image that we, as the bride, are being accused of acting as mere shadows of our fullest potential, caught up in our own vanity, and our own self pity. The bride is seen as barren, unable to reproduce- a symbol of shame within the Bible- although not translated as such for individuals, for whom this can be a great source of anxiety. The Bride is downcast, unhappy and hurting, underachievening and painful. Images which we have witnessed time and time again, was we are met by the horrors and ugliness of our humanity, time and time again this last few weeks.
But for the bride, the reading speaks of God’s imagination and God’s great generosity. Be stretched out, enlarge your tent, spread out and grow- flourish, and bring peace to areas of desolation. Do not fear, and do not be ashamed for God is with you, and God’s great yearning is for this place to grow, be enlarged and to flourish as a matter of principal.
Partnership, love and joy- bringing people of difference together. The C of E was once described by William Temple “The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.” I pray that St Peter’s may think the same. We exist not just for ourselves, but for the whole community- partnership is key, where we are not ashamed to bring God into the relationship, partnership, if we dare to let our partnership be based on generosity and not just profit margins.
Be stretched out, enlarge your tent, spread out and grow- flourish, and bring peace to areas of desolation. Do not fear, and do not be ashamed for God is with you, and God’s great yearning is for this place to grow, be enlarged and to flourish as a matter of principal.
Well done to each of you, and May this glorious community thrive, which it will, when we dare to work together.
Bishop of Edmonton
3 July 2016
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