The Bishop of Monmouth yesterday (November 15th) Installed Revd Sarah Gillard-Fualkner as Deacon and Sub-Prior . The service was in the context of a Mass for Our Lady.
In His address the Bishop, who is Episcopal Visitor of the Holywell Community, said:
It’s good to be here to license Sarah into her new roles as Parish Deacon, sub Prior and Bishop’s Chaplain. I wonder if there is enough of Sarah to go around, but those of us who know Sarah well, knows that she puts a great deal of energy and commitment into her work and I personally have been a beneficiary of her multi tasking.
I know also that Sarah is greatly shaped by her faith, traditional yet vibrant, and this coming year some of that faith will be brought to the fore as she co-ordinates the Walking with Mary programme in anticipation of the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Walsingham.
It’s good therefore that we have this passage from Luke relating the Visitation story as giving an insight into the motives of Mary and how we -and in this particular instance -Sarah – can benefit upon closer examination and see what it says about our vocation and how it fits in with God’s plan.
I want to consider three actions by Mary in this gospel extract
Mary set out and went with haste
Mary was on a mission. She had been told by the angel Gabriel that her cousin, an elderly lady was pregnant. Mary had to go to see her. Why? To share in the great wonder of Gods plan, unfolding in their midst? To have a gossip about what’s going on. Now, it is clear that Mary was not like most young girls! She had a mind of her own. It would have been unusual for a young girl to travel away up into the hill country. But she did. She was on a mission and nothing was going to stop and with the impetuosity of youth she went with haste!
Oh, if only we were ready to do God’s mission with such haste! We prevaricate, we have our meetings and our parish councils and often it’s about everything else part from the Mission. What mission – the mission of the incarnation. God coming amongst us, bringing salvation, bringing healing and a change of life. Are you directly linked into the mission? Sarah needs to remind you that God comes first.
The second thing
Mary greeted Elizabeth.
You know it’s all about being human. Being alongside each other. Supporting each other. There should be no them and us in the church. Whatever them and us you want to talk about. It’s about greeting each in love. Celebrating our common humanity in Christ. The work of a Deacon is to bridge the gaps. In a purely human way to do the work of service that brings the love of Christ. Sarah you are known for this work. I have seen it in the way that you go about your work and support others. You have had a special ministry for ordinands in college. You have a wonderful way of working with prisoners as a Prison Chaplain. I know you will, time willing, engage in work in the community here in Abergavenny.
Mary greeted Elizabeth. What followed? Joy! The child leaped for joy! You can hear the laughter, the sheer joy and exuberance of the occasion as both Mary and Elizabeth realised that God was at work and it was going to be ok. Laughter. I don’t need to tell you about Sarah’s laughter. It doesn’t so much echo around a parish but the whole of the Diocese. It’s a timely reminder that we are, above all, a people of joy. How can we not be, when we know that God’s mission is our mission. And in our community we are shaped by love, we greet each other in peace and goodwill. It cannot be better than that.
Mary said My Soul Magnifies the Lord.
To magnify means to grow bigger. And if my soul like Mary’s needs to grow bigger to accommodate God then let it be so. It does not mean that I grow smaller – that’s a rather strange view that almost suggests that my humanity diminishes in order to allow God to be in charge. Not at all. In the same way that love has the capacity to be added to and not subtracted, as a parent can love more than one child equally. So it is with us. By accepting Gods love, our soul, our very life, can expand to new horizons. We are not diminished, but we can burst out with Gods glory and goodness, his grace and his healing love.
The journey of Mary is a wonderful forerunner of the Christian life. We accept the mission of love, we serve others in love, we grow in the stature of Christ as we allow his Ministers to develop within us. This is a model of joy, it is the model of the church.
Sarah and all the people here gathered: journey well. Do not be distracted. Keep on message! Be kind to each other and let joy flow. And finally rejoice in the Lord, for he is here and his spirit dwells within us!