November Magazine Foreword

When I retired from full-time ministry in July 2016, I imagined that I would not be writing any more “Rector’s letters” for a church magazine. But, as the saying goes: Never say ‘never’. Even so, I am reasonably certain that this could be the last one.

I have, though, been glad to have had this opportunity to help out during the vacancy. For a priest, it is an enormous joy and privilege to celebrate the Eucharist. That is what we are ordained to do after all. To preside at the Eucharist is no solitary task, however, for the priest does this on behalf of and together with the community, the Church gathered together in this place and on that occasion. It has long been the custom for representatives of the congregation to bring forward the bread, wine and offerings of money, to be presented and offered to God by the priest at the altar. What is going on then is a highly significant and symbolic action. The elements represent what we bring: who we are, the fruits of our labour, which the priest gathers up, presents to God and in what follows presents God to the people.

To give up something in order to gain something greater is a way of describing what a sacrifice is. The word itself means “to make holy”. What the priest is offering at the altar is our poor – yet, paradoxically, precious – gifts, “ourselves, our souls and bodies” as the Prayer Book says. Through the action of the Holy Spirit they are transformed, given new significance, made holy and returned to us, now made infinitely more precious, the Body and Blood of Christ. To be called to play a part in this is a wonderful gift.

That is why I am grateful to God and to yourselves to have been able to fulfil my priestly rôle these past seven months. It has been a way to offer to God, and to give back to you, all the kindness, support and love that we have received at St Mary’s.