St Leonards Church
In order to meet editorial deadlines I wrote this letter on the eve of the feast of St. Barnabas. In the life, work and witness of the early Christian church ( as recorded in the book of The Acts of the Apostles) he is described as " a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and Faith." His original name was Joseph but his fellow apostles renamed him Barnabas which means "son of encouragement ".
The first week of this month will mark the 50th. Anniversary of my Ordination to the Priesthood. As I reflect on my ministry, served under 6 Diocesan Bishops, and spread across 15 parishes, I think of those who, from each and every place, have encouraged me and walked alongside me in the heat of the day.
I think of a wonderful lady, physically handicapped by the loss of her sight, but spiritually filled to the brim with a rock-solid faith and an immense love of God. l visited her regularly to chat and to pray together. As I walked back to The Vicarage with a spring in my step I always felt that her broad smile, words of wisdom, beautiful prayers, and a transparent love and concern for the welfare of others, had transported me to the very heart of the true meaning of pastoral care. An act of kindness, an encouraging word can help a person receiving it enormously, including myself.
The book of Proverbs(ch.12v18) says that "reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing". In the New Testament the epistle of James endorses the view that the tongue can be sharper than a two-edged sword. James writes (ch.1 v.19) "Everyone should be quick to listen , slow to speak and slow to become angry".
We would do well to apply this sound advice to our national life, church and community life, our family life, and perhaps, most importantly, to our personal life. Her Majesty the Queen's 1957 Christmas broadcast included this observation, " It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult ". Almost 65 years later and still much of the world lives divided and apart. When will it ever learn is a question we might well ask as dark storm clouds descend upon us with increasing regularity. It is at such times that we need to come together and walk on together in faith and hope and love. We need to hold our heads up high and remain steadfast and immovable in our quest for a better world in which the nations of the world learn to live together in harmony and peace. It may seem a tall order. It was tough for the Early Church but people like Barnabas set the bar very high it kept on hoping, praying and encouraging people to be bold and strong. Jesus was also a great encourager. He told his disciples that in the world they would face trials and tribulations but to be of good courage for he would overcome the world.
May God bless you and keep you wherever life takes you this month,