Farewell Faithful Companion(As published in ‘The Link’)
The Companions in Christ group last met on 30th March to farewell our dear friend, the Rev’d John Payne, a faithful member of our group since its inception 11.5 years ago. As Meister Eckert was often quoted by John during the course of our discussions, we decided to find out more about this theologian who obviously had a deep influence on John’s own life and theology. Below is a brief summary of his life and some of the sayings which we found most interesting. Meister Eckart (1260‐1327) was a German theologian, mystic and philosopher who was educated in Cologne, and possibly Paris. He was a member of the Dominican order and lectured at the Dominican convent of St Jacques in Paris. He later became the Prior of the convent near his birthplace of Erfut in Germany, and was responsible for 47 convents in the Province of Saxony.
Eckart saw God in all things and his practical spiritual philosophy attracted many people to his teaching. Eckart’s greatest passion was for preaching. He used simple language which appealed to the common people. Eckart stressed the spiritual connection between the soul of humanity and God: “The Eye with which I see God is the same Eye with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye is one eye and one sight and one knowledge and one love.” Eckart taught the importance of stilling the mind to be receptive to God’s presence: “To the quiet mind all things are possible. What is a quiet mind? A quiet mind is one which nothing weights on, nothing worries, which, free from ties and from all self‐ seeking, is wholly merged into the will of God and dead to its own.” He believed that in order to become closer to God one needed to be detached from earthly distractions: “To be full of things is to be empty of God; to be empty of things is to be full of God.” Eckart saw God’s presence in all living things: “We shall find God in everything alike and always find God alike in everything.” In order to overcome our innate selfishness Eckart encouraged his followers to devote themselves to serving others.
However, as Eckart’s teachings became increasingly popular, some church authorities became concerned that his popular teachings could lead his simple followers astray. In 1326 Eckart was charged with heresy. Eckart protested his innocence on the grounds that he was simply instructing ordinary people about Christ’s teachings: “The ignorant are taught in the hope of changing them from ignorant to enlightened people.” A papal bull, issued in March 1329, found Eckart guilty of teaching a number of heretical teachings but stated that before his death he recanted of all of these. Eckart died in January 1328, before the tribunals set up by the Pope could reach a verdict.
Some of Eckart’s Sayings:
- People should not worry as much about what they do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous. We should not think that holiness is based on what we do but rather on what we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works.
- Be sure of this: absolute stillness for as long as possible is best of all for you. [German sermon 4, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
- You should know that God must act and pour Himself into the moment He finds you ready. [German sermon 4, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
- Whoever possesses God in their being, has him in a divine manner, and he shines out to them in all things; for them all things taste of God and in all things it is God’s image that they see. [German sermon 10, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
- If you seek God and seek Him for your own profit and bliss, then in truth you are not seeking God. [German sermon 11, trans M.O’C. Walshe]
© 2016 Eckhart Society ‐http://www.eckhartsociety.org/eckhart/some‐eckharts‐sayings
John’s life and ministry reflected many of Meister Eckart’s teachings. He was a humble, forgiving, generous and compassionate man who saw God’s hand at work in humanity and in the natural world. John had a great affinity with the lonely, elderly and those with mental health issues and his ministry to the people of Bucklands and The Pines was faithful and diligent. His services there are still greatly missed, and residents and staff often remark on his “down to earth” ministry and sense of humour. John’s preaching, although not always straightforward, was based on practical theology and often illustrated honestly with incidents from his own spiritual journey and the inevitable quotations from Meister Eckart’s Sayings.
Farewell, John. We will miss your wisdom (and that of Meister Eckart) and our meetings will certainly not be the same without your unique sense of humour.
Mark 5:21-43 – Jairus’s daughter and the woman with a haemorrhaging condition
Loving God, may my words and our reflections honour You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
In the 1950s and 60s my family lived in a little village in the south of Spain. Life was hard during General Franco’s rule and there were few luxuries. When she was two my younger sister Jenny contracted impetigo, a contagious bacterial skin disease. It began with red blisters around her mouth, which later turned into open sores that would not heal. By the time her face and head had become ulcerated my parents had become desperate but with few trained doctors and no antibiotics available, things looked pretty grim. Weeks were spent searching for a cure; everything else was put on hold until my father finally found an American doctor who was able to obtain the precious antibiotics my sister needed. I’ve often wondered whether a 2 year old Spanish child would have received the same treatment. And why is it that a 2 year old girl living in the APY Lands today, or Aleppo, Afghanistan or Gaza still does not have access to the medication she needs to make her well?
Today’s Gospel reading from Mark contains two parallel stories about 2 seriously ill women which are interwoven with each other, a technique often used by the writer to portray Jesus as the Son of God, who is able to overthrow the devil and raise the dead.
Mark begins this recount after Jesus has crossed over from Gentile territory on the other side of the Sea of Galilee where he had healed the man possessed by the devil at Gerasa and stilled the storm, proof that Jesus has control over the demonic forces of evil and the destructive powers of nature. Upon his return he is confronted by Jairus, the distraught leader of the local synagogue at Capernaum, who pleads with Jesus to cure his 12 year old daughter who is on the verge of death, and by a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years. Both stories contain strong symbolism; both focus on the plight of women and the healing power of touch. The older woman’s problem was exacerbated by Jewish purity laws which resulted in her exclusion not only from worship and community life but also from the male members of her own family. For according to Jewish law a woman with a flow of blood was deemed to be unclean. Mark describes the woman’s prolonged suffering at the hands of those from whom she had sought help. She had spent all of her money seeking a cure from physicians who had only made her condition worse. So when she heard about the miracles being performed by Jesus, she was determined to seek a cure, believing that if she only touched his clothes she would be healed and he would hopefully be none the wiser. As for Jairus’ daughter, 12 years of age was about the time when girls reached puberty and were prepared for marriage. Mark deliberately keeps us in a state of suspense. Will this girl be healed so that she can grow to womanhood?
At a time when women had little or no social or legal status and so are not even named in the text, Mark clearly shows how Jesus empathises with the plight of the two women and affirms that in God’s Kingdom there is a place for women; their suffering is important and takes precedence over ritual purity. And so Jesus does not condemn the woman; unlike his fellow Jews he does not regard himself as being defiled by her touch, He immediately recognises her amazing faith and courage in initiating this action which could have resulted in rejection and shame for herself and her family. Sensing that someone has touched him, Jesus wants to meet the woman, to listen to her story and to bless her with his forgiveness. This is indeed good news for us all; for women, children and men! However, when Jesus confronts the woman she is obviously terrified of his response. Nevertheless she tells Jesus the truth. She tells it in fear and trembling and then Jesus gently reassures her, alleviating her fears: “Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
This story offers comfort and hope to all who are seeking healing, especially those who feel that no-one has time to listen to them, those who belong to minority groups and those who feel shunned by society. For Jesus always seemed to find the time to deal with genuine human need and so should we. Jesus was always ready for surprises; to be interrupted if need be, to be led by the Spirit to those who longed for his touch. Perhaps we too could make more time to truly see, to listen, to become more sensitive and flexible in meeting people’s needs as they arise.
As for Jairus’ daughter, the suspense continues. Whilst Jesus is still with the woman, the terrible news comes that the girl is dead. The traditional mourning rituals have begun and it seems as if Jesus’ ministry is no longer required. His suggestion that this may not be the case is met with disbelief and ridicule: “Do not fear; only believe” he says “…The child is not dead but sleeping.” And taking with him Peter, James and John and the girls’ parents, he takes the girl’s hands, touches her and raises her to new life with the words, ”Talitha, cum”/”Little girl, get up.” And so two women are raised in one day, a promise of the Resurrection, when we too will be awakened from our suffering, from sleep, to new life in Christ.
I wonder whether the girl remembered this experience? Did it make a difference to the way she lived her life? Did she grow up to become one of Jesus’ followers? I have a friend who was pronounced clinically dead as a child. She remembers being drawn to the Light and sent back to complete her life’s journey. This, to her, was a life-changing experience. With no fear of death and the knowledge that Christ is and will always be with her, she radiates an aura of gentleness and her words and actions reflect her spiritual peace.
Mark wrote these stories to encourage his community; to reassure them that in the midst of great suffering and persecution, the Risen Christ will be there on the other side of death, that he will take them by the hand and raise them to share his risen life. This message is as relevant for us today in our suffering world as it was in first century Rome. Though we are not called to raise people from physical death, we are called to bring Jesus’ healing touch to those in need. How many people in our world today are longing to be made well? Adults and children in the APY Lands, Aleppo, Afghanistan and Gaza. As Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Corinthians when appealing for the believers to support those who were in need in the Church in Jerusalem: “…the gift is acceptable according to what one has…it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need…” We are called to witness to Jesus by bringing Christ’s healing to the world. When we stay in touch with his Spirit, our actions, our touch, and our giving to those in need can have far more life-giving power than we can ever imagine. For we too have the power to raise someone from despair, to make their dreams of healing and new life a reality, so that they too may come to believe.
Why do we do what we do? Parish Councillors
This is the final in a series of reflections on how we formally make things happen in our parish.
Today we explore the role of Parish Councillor. To state the obvious, Parish Councillors are members of the Parish Council, and they all share the same collective responsibilities. Parish Council, together with the Parish Priest, is responsible for the worship, ministry and mission of the parish under the leadership of the Parish Priest. So they’re basically the team with the responsibility for making sure that everything that needs to be done in the parish actually gets done. This includes making decisions, and calling a Vestry meeting whenever the whole parish needs to share the decision.
Some of the work Parish Council does is administrative management – making sure we know what needs to be done, working out who’s going to do it, and then checking that it actually gets done. Equally important, though, is strategic leadership – making sure we understand what we’re here for, figuring out what direction we think God is leading us in, and checking that what we’re doing is consistent with our agreed values and priorities.
Parish Council is made up of the Parish Priest, the Churchwardens, and a number of Councillors elected by the Vestry or appointed by the Parish Priest. Our Councillors currently serve two-year terms, with half the Council completing their terms in any one year.
The most obvious thing that Parish Council does is meet regularly, at a time that works for its members, and at least once every four months (monthly meetings are a common default). Any parishioners can attend Parish Council meetings whenever they wish, and meeting minutes are available for any who wish to see them. You can either find them on one of our noticeboards in the hall, or ask any member of Council. But we don’t get everything done in meetings. Most of the work happens between meetings, and it’s shared out between Councillors and other parishioners in practical ways. Any way that works well is valid, and what gets done between meetings is included in meeting reports. If you want a detailed list of responsibilities, have a look at the Job Description on the new nomination forms in the narthex.
Thank you to all our current Parish Councillors, and to those of you appointed by Council for particular tasks, for all the work you do on our behalf.
Why do we do what we do? Churchwardens
Sometimes we can take for granted what we think is a common understanding, only to find that what we thought we knew turned out to be different from what is actually the case. Sometimes, when we come to a new situation, we can learn a great deal ‘by osmosis’, without ever being told explicitly about certain aspects of the way things are done. These are two reasons why it is worth examining why we do what we do from time to time.
Today we explore the role of churchwarden. All Anglican parishes in Adelaide have two churchwardens, one elected at the annual vestry meeting and one appointed by the parish priest at or within seven days after the annual vestry meeting. The office of churchwarden carries a Level 2 licence, which requires ‘an undertaking to be familiar with and uphold the Diocesan Code of Conduct, Faithfulness in Service’, a National Criminal History Record Check, and participation in ‘Ensuring Safer Church Communities’ training. At the moment our churchwardens are Pauline Glover and Fran Kerwin.
Although the two churchwardens are appointed in different ways, their responsibilities are exactly the same. For this reason, the titles People’s Warden and Priest’s Warden are inappropriate. The churchwarden elected at the Annual Vestry Meeting is not meant to be the instrument of the lay people of the parish any more than they churchwarden appointed by the priest is meant to be the instrument of the priest. Both churchwardens belong to Priest and people together.
So what does a churchwarden actually do? For the finer details, feel free to have a chat with Joan or Pauline, or any other member of the congregation who has been a churchwarden in the past. The role of the churchwarden is defined by the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and our diocesan Parochial Administration Ordinance. The Book of Common Prayer identifies three key duties of churchwardens: receiving the offerings of the people; providing the bread and wine for Communion; and making sure the offerings go ‘to such pious and charitable uses, as the Minister and Churchwardens shall think fit’. In practice today, these duties are often delegated to other parishioners, while the churchwardens remain ultimately responsible for them.
In addition to these duties, the Parochial Administration Ordinance identifies four more responsibilities. The first is cooperating with the Parish Priest in initiating, conducting and developing the work of God and the Church within the parish. This is a role of strategic leadership, requiring wisdom, discernment and tuning into God’s vision for us.
The second is being the executive officers of the Vestry and of the Parish Council. This is an administrative role, requiring an ongoing awareness of the directions already determined by vestry and parish council, as well as a range of administrative skills to facilitate the implementation of decisions made by Vestry and Parish Council.
The third is maintaining order in the church and church grounds. This includes two different dimensions. Perhaps the most obvious dimension is the maintenance of buildings and grounds. Churchwardens don’t have to do all the maintenance jobs, but it is their responsibility to make sure that those jobs get done. More interesting, perhaps, is the second dimension – that of behaviour management – maintaining order among the people while they are in the church and church grounds. This is one reason why churchwardens have wands – you can often see ours clipped to a couple of pews either side of the aisle in the church. Historically those wands were used to protect visiting bishops from unruly parishioners, or for self-protection when ejecting a disruptive person from the congregation. It is also said they were sometimes used to prod people awake during particularly tedious sermons!
The final duty specified is making sure that all things needed for services are provided and kept in ‘fit and proper’ condition for their use.
When you think about it, we’ve got a lot to thank our churchwardens for, don’t we?
Why do we do what we do? – Vestry Meetings
While some members of our congregation have been attending Annual Vestry Meetings for decades, other members may have little or no experience of them. Even for those of us who are used to Vestry Meetings, it is possible that we’ve not really thought about them much, or that we might have one or more misconceptions about them, so here are a few reflections on Vestry meetings.
What is an Annual Vestry Meeting? It’s a once-a-year parish meeting to review the year just finished, to elect parish officers as needed, to consider any recommendations from Parish Council, to consider a budget for the year ahead, and to consider other business as noted in the agenda or allowed by the Chairperson. Special Vestry Meetings can take place any time throughout the year to deal with particular issues and opportunities as needed.
Why do we have them? To give us all a say in the pastoral, educational, evangelistic and missionary work of the Parish. While it is good for each of us to have our own say, we also benefit from hearing what other people have to say, too.
Why ‘Vestry’? The Vestry Room in a church is the room in which vestments (robes) are put on just before a service. Going back in time through English history, parish meetings used to take place in this room, so they gradually came to be called Vestry meetings. Now the name is official, as it is what parish meetings are called in our constitution.
Who’s involved? Short answer: the people of the parish. Long answer: the parish priest and any other parish clergy, the churchwardens, and all members of the parish who are at least sixteen years old, have received Communion at least 3 times in the past year, who belong to the Anglican Church of Australia and no other religious denomination, and who sign a declaration saying so at the beginning of the meeting. We need at least 15 people for the meeting to go ahead, but it’s always best to have as many people as possible.
So what? This is an important time to look back and reflect on the past year, to consider the work of the parish, and to make decisions together for the future we share. May God guide us in our preparation and our deliberations.