Entente Cordiale

by Jonathan Ball last modified 01 Feb, 2012 10:20 AM

Bishop Nicholas Holtam was invited to visit our French Roman Catholic link Diocese of Evreux during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Entente Cordiale

The Bishops of Evreux and Salisbury with members of the Link Committees

Accompanied by Archdeacon Paul Taylor and members of the Link committee, the Bishop was hosted in Evreux (central Normandy) from 20-23 January by members of the French Link Committee, and the monks and nuns of the Abbey of Le Bec Hellouin.

On Friday the group met with the Bishop of Evreux, Monseigneur Christian Nourrichard, and members of his Bishop's Council (an idea he adopted from Salisbury), for a sharing of mutual concerns and reports of progress in their diocesan projects, and also the development of Local Ministry Teams, which are being piloted in the Diocese of Salisbury from this year.

The venue was the new Diocesan Centre on the edge of the city of Evreux, which also houses the Bishop's apartment.

On Saturday in the convent of the Sisters of Jesus in Vernon, Bishop Nicholas and his party heard of the wideranging diocesan social responsibility work which takes place amongst the poor, homeless and refugee communities, and of plans for a diocesan gathering at Pentecost when all will be challenged to recommit themselves to live out their baptism and confirmation promises through service of the community. This in itself will constitute preparation for a national French Church event in 2013 (Diakonia - Service).

On Sunday Bishop Nicholas was invited to preach at the main Mass at the historic Abbey of Le Bec, from where the Archbishops of Canterbury Anselm and Lanfranc cames in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Abbey has had a pioneering role in ecumenical links with the Church of England as a result. The Abbot shared his thoughts about the future of ecumenism with the members of both Link committees prior to an ecumenical Vigil service in which members of the French Reformed Church took part alongside the RCs and Anglicans.

The Bishop's Chaplain, Jonathan Ball, said: 'This visit was hugely enjoyable, to renew friendships and make new friends in the Body of Christ. But more importantly I was deeply impressed by the vision for mission and service which the Diocese of Evreux seeks to live out, by its integrated and effective social responsibility work, and by its challenge to each baptised member of every parish to live out faith in mission within and service of the whole community.'

For more information about the link, click here.

For the Diocese of Evreux's website click here.

The text of Bishop Nicholas' sermon is below:

Sermon preached at the Abbey of Le Bec Hellouin

Sunday 22 January 2012

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:14-20

May I speak, and may you hear, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thank you for your welcome.  This monastery has great significance for the English Church, both in history and in the present day.  For those of us from the Church of England’s Diocese of Salisbury it is a good place to pray in this week of prayer for Christian Unity.  Thank you for your warm and generous hospitality and friendship. 

The buildings of the Abbey have been damaged by time and scarred by battles.  As Bishop Nicholas, I am glad it is St Nicholas’ Tower that still stands!

The Gospels are written from the perspective of the resurrection.  So when the disciples are first called, we hear it in the light of the resurrection.  Peter, the rock on which the Church is built and Andrew, his brother, and James and John; these four became part of the inner core of disciples. 

In the Gospels Peter, James and John are summoned by Jesus to witness particularly significant events – the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration, the agony in the garden of Gethsemane.  With Andrew, they are pictured in Mark (13.3) questioning Jesus’ understanding of future events.

So these four are shown to be the core within the disciples and the leaders of early Church.  It is also shown that they are all too human.

James and John are rebuked by Jesus for offering to curse a Samaritan village that did not welcome him.  When they asked to sit on either side of Jesus in glory the other ten were indignant.  It was such an embarrassing question that Matthew in his Gospel blames the incident on their mother!  James and John were known as ‘The Sons of Thunder’, a name which must give some insight into their characters.

Peter, the Rock, is enthusiastic and strong, impetuous and unreliable.  At the key moment he denied that he even knew Jesus, three times.  We know little about Andrew but these are the core of the group gathered by Jesus.

Some of the disciples we knownly by name.  Matthew was a tax collector.  Thomas has the faith to believe in the Risen Lord even without touching him: “My Lord and my God”.  Judas betrayed Jesus; a deed so terrible he despaired things could ever be put right.  Perhaps this is the difference between him and Peter?  Peter allowed himself to be remade in the resurrection.  The Risen Lord asking, “Peter, do you love me?”  Three times and Peter answering three times, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you”, as if cancelling the three-fold denial.

So we are called to follow Christ as a community of the resurrection:  repentant, forgiven, remade and full of hope, not about our own faith but about God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.

We are in the Epiphany and season when we see Christ made known to the world:  through the visit of the Magi, his baptism, first miracle and so on. 

Jesus said that the unity of his followers would show the world the truth of his being One with the Father and Holy Spirit.

Of the early Church it was said, “See these Christians, how they love one another”; but the Church has always followed the sayings of the rabbis that where there are three Jews there will be four opinions.  There have been strong divisions.  We have killed others for the sake of Truth.  We have disparaged one another rather than witnessed to the love of God being known between us when two or three gather in Christ’s name.  We have not loved as God has loved us. 

In the twentieth century the Church began to recover itself.  We see each other again as followers of Jesus Christ and friends.  We have committed to search for the unity which is ours in Jesus Christ.

We have come to enjoy the diversity of God’s people.  It is good that we are not identical.  We have come to see the variety of God’s love but we must also care for our unity in Christ which is central to God’s mission to the world:  “Father may they all be One”, as Father, Son and Spirit are One”.

An Anglican missionary in the middle of the twentieth century (D T Miles) described evangelism as, “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”. 

Today we give thanks for all we share in Jesus Christ, for the unity which is already ours, and we pray that we may grow to be One in the power of the Spirit through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

+Nicholas Sarum

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