Interfaith Walk

This important event will take place on Saturday 11th April. This is the programme for the day:

10:00 am Assemble at Lammack Church- Light refreshments will be available

10:30 am Reading of an agreed statement and commencement of walk

11:00 am Revidge Fold URC- meet welcoming group

11:45 am Masjid Tauheedule-meet welcoming group. Light lunch and observe 12:30 prayer

13:15 pm Masjid Al-Hidayha- meet welcoming group

14:00 pm St James’ C of E – meet welcoming group. Rest and light refreshments

15:00 pm Lammack Church

A call to repentance and responsibility

A call to repentance and responsibility

We are living in a world which suffers from a deep disparity between rich and poor. God in the Bible, as we read in Deuteronomy 16:14-15, blessed everyone fairly and expected them to rejoice together:

“You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful”.

Our God is a fair God. One of the important instructions in Leviticus for God’s people was

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:9-10),

It was mandatory that God’s blessings should be shared fairly with the poor and needy. But we learn that God’s own chosen people have failed to act responsibly. The book of Prophet Amos points at the low spiritual standards of God’s chosen people. People became greedy and stopped following God’s instructions and values. The rich were becoming richer at the expense of the poor peasants, who were once farming for their living, but were now forced to farm for foreign trade — mostly wine and oil. (Amos 6:6).
God did intervene in restoring both His own people and His vineyard. The Psalmist is quite apt in saying

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it… (Psalm 24:1)

God had to deliver His vineyard from greedy and selfish caretakers. God wanted to save His world from immorality.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…” (John 3:16)

Harvest Thanksgiving reminds us of our salvation and calls us to repent for being irresponsible in not taking care of God’s vineyard justly. During the last few Sundays we have been reading a number of parables from the Gospel of Jesus. In the parable of the two sons, who work in their father’s vineyard: one Son portrays the ‘sinful outsider’ but is surprisingly more reliable than the other son who belongs to God’s chosen community. The parable of the tenants (Matthew 21: 33-46) is a story of greed and violence against God and His vineyard by His own appointed care takers. The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22: 1-14) is a story of God’s disappointment in His chosen people and God’s call to those who are outsiders.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Mathew 7:21):

“For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

Jesus offered Hope and Assurance to the poor and needy and to all who are marginal in society. He picked up those who were not part of the history of the chosen people of God. Jesus created His own band of disciples who became His Spiritual Harvest to offer Hope and Assurance to the whole of mankind. For this act of gathering His true followers Jesus was killed by His own chosen people. They thought they killed Him but on the third day Jesus rose again. How could evil overcome the good? How could darkness overcome the light? Jesus defeated the nefarious plans of those so-called chosen people.
Jesus not only rose again from the dead; He also empowered His disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit. These disciples became the true caretakers of God’s Harvest and drew many people to participate with Jesus in building a just and righteous kingdom on earth. Jesus showed His disciples a huge harvest waiting to be gathered into God’s fold to become part of His spiritual harvest on earth,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

We are the Church, planted by the labours of the Apostles of Jesus, the Saints, Evangelists and Missionaries down the centuries.

However we continue to live in a world where on the one hand people continue to suffer from injustice and unrighteousness and live in hunger and inadequate supply of essential needs for living, and on the other hand there is a progressively decreasing number of disciples of Jesus.

We are living in world where the rich continue to become more rich and the poor more poor. The circumstances in which many people live are quite hopeless and helpless. I do appreciate when our members and our school children bring gifts to the Church on Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday and we pass them to the Food Bank and to other needy people and organizations. But we have to move beyond our standard collecting and sharing of food to participating more robustly in becoming the voice of the poor and the marginal.
God has a much bigger dream than this for His world. He wants to establish His Just Kingdom.

Desmond Tutu speaks about A Vision of Hope for Our Time and speaks about how to transform our pain and sorrow into hope and confidence in the future. While fighting injustices in South Africa He says,

“…my confidence was not in the present circumstances but in the laws of God’s universe. This is a moral universe, which means that, despite all the evidence that seems to be contrary, there is no way that evil and injustice and oppression and lies can have the last word. God is a God who cares about right and wrong. God cares about justice and injustice. God is in charge.” (Desmond, p2)

We have to confess that at times our acts of faith appear merely a tick-box exercise. For Jesus’ disciples their life was meant to be an instrument through which God could perform miracles. For this reason Paul so confidently said, (1 Corinthians 3:9),

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”.

We have to be more robust in our participation with God in building His kingdom on this earth. This will mean, that throughout the year we have to reach out to the poor and needy, become their voice and not forget to gather those people who are there to hear the Good News of Jesus and to follow Him. Harvest Thanksgiving is a time when we receive the call from God to repent of our complacency about partnering with God to fulfil His Dream and not fully carrying out our responsibility in building His Kingdom honestly. Let us commend our life to God that He may fulfil His purpose through us:

God of Grace, as you are ever at work in your creation,
So fulfil your wise and loving purpose in us
And in all for whom we pray
That with them in all that you have made
Your glory may be revealed, and the whole earth give praise you.
Amen.

Bibliography
Desmond Tutu2004, God Has a Dream – A Vision of Hope for Our Time, Rider
Common Worship – Times and Seasons – Church House Publishing 2006
The Bible – NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witness and Proclamation

The phrase Presence and Engagement is a call to the established Church of England to reflect on its ecclesiology (what it means to be Church) in a plural and multi-faith context. Parishes like ours who are surrounded by more than 80% of people who belong to a faith other than the Christian Community are called to be actively present and engaged to witness and proclaim the generous love of Jesus Christ.

Today we cannot develop our parishes’ missional life without acknowledging that we are surrounded by many other truth claims about God from the perspective of other religions. They have their own story and worldview about the saving acts of God. It is in this context that we are to share the unique life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is in this context we have to develop our skills to communicate the truth that Jesus is the ultimate source of eternal Hope in this world. It is in this context we are called to testify the generous love of Jesus to our neighbours by opening our doors for hospitality, respect and goodwill in this diverse community. We have an opportunity to act as responsible parishes reflecting the kingdom values shared by Jesus in the gospels with our neighbours.

Unfortunately at times inter-faith relationships at grassroots level gets reduced to social gatherings. At times relationships between faith communities seems to become symbiotic trying either to please each other or to tolerate each other. Inter-faith relations are not to be managed by pseudo flattering or by simply highlighting commonality in every religion. Rather we have to develop a living relationship with each other and learn to celebrate our diversity. A living relationship survives through honest conversations and sharing of one’s dearest beliefs.

Our encounters as faith communities should build in us a capacity to say ‘God’s Yes’, and to say ‘God’s No’ when we see evil taking over good. In a living relationship there is scope to point together to the transcendent from a faith perspective to bring social renewal and to live justly and cohesively. We can’t stand aloof from the reality that within our United Benefice we have a role to play in building a cohesive and a just community life. Our intentional Presence and Engagement with our neighbours as disciples of Jesus Christ is mandatory.

This requires from us courage for dialogue with other faiths. This courage for being present and engaged and in dialogue with our neighbours stems from the fact that God is already active. Or we can say that our God in Jesus has already taken the initiative to share His all-embracing love with His creation. This Love is comprehensive and in totality sweeps the entire world. We believe that all over the world the Spirit of God is moving. Only through Christianity did a person like Augustine in his spiritual quest learn, that ‘The Word (God) became flesh and dwelt amongst us’.

Therefore Salvation through this incarnate God in Jesus is comprehensive. Its wholeness touches the whole of human life. Our faith in Jesus is rooted in its historical character beginning in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, in His life, death, resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit cannot be bound by visible communal walls. It is the Parish or Congregation as the Body of Christ seeks to serve God in its community through its worship, its service, and its witness as those who have experienced the power of God’s Holy Spirit in their Baptism.

I am privileged to be a member of the Presence and Engagement Task Group since its appointment by the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England in 2008. As your Vicar I find it imperative that we equip ourselves to communicate the gospel of Jesus to our neighbourhood.

At the Parish away day on 20th September St. James PCC members and coordinators of different ongoing programmes and Lay Readers will reflect together and draw up a Mission Action Plan for the next three years. We hope to draw a Mission Action Plan for our Mission and Ministry in our United Benefice in the next three years.

However we cannot draw up any Mission Action Plan without appropriate Spiritual preparation. We have a vast reservoir of Christian Spiritual Disciplines shared by different men and women of God. I encourage you to attend Tuesday 2nd, 9th and 16th September at 7pm in the Church a time of Spiritual nourishment guided by our Lay Reader Jo Hartley. I am sure these sessions will contribute substantively as part of our preparation for our meeting on 20th September at Whalley Abbey.

In the month of October every Tuesday 7pm we will have sessions on ‘Presence and Engagement’ which will be guided by me. I encourage you to attend. Presence and Engagement without a robust witness and proclamation about the saving grace of Jesus will be void in its Christian substance. We are talking about Christian presence and engagement in our multi-faith context. Peter the Apostle was writing to the early Church in Asia Minor, in modern-day Turkey, guiding them to be present and engaged intentionally and boldly. In his first letter he encourages them to stand firm in the midst of persecution and trials and to be bold in witnesses;

“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. Yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1Peter 3:15)

Blessings, Arun.

Background Readings

S.J. Samartha, 1981, Courage for Dialogue, WCC Publications, Geneva

Alan Race, 1983, Christians and Religious Pluralism, SCM Press

Tosh Arai and Wesley Ariarajah (Ed), 1989, WCC Publications, Geneva

Bible – RSV

 

Interfaith Forum

The Blackburn with Darwen InterFaith Group — of which our Vicar, myself and Jo are members – met in our church lounge on Thursday 10th April for a development meeting. Present were members of the Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu faiths along with guest speakers from The Lancashire Council of Mosques, the Statutory Advisory Committee for Religious Education, Churches Together in Lancashire and Blackburn Cathedral. After a thorough review of what the Forum has achieved in the past, very useful input was given as to plans for an effective future. There was great enthusiasm for working together in joint events for schools and in the wider community. The members were very appreciative of the venue – so much so that the next meeting of the Forum will also take place at St. James’.  If you are a little fearful of working with people from other faiths – why not come along as an observer to our next meeting. We know that you will be enthused and feel very welcome. This meeting is on Thursday 29th May at 10.00am and will be finished by 12.30pm. 

Derek Hartley

Bradford Faith Expert moves to Blackburn

An expert in Asian Christian Ministry and Cross Cultural mission has
been appointed to a parish in the Blackburn Diocese after pioneering
initiatives in Bradford. Canon Dr Arun John will be priest in charge of
St James, Blackburn and St Stephen’s Harwood after seven years in
the Bradford Diocese.

Services in Urdu that he began there surprised him by
attracting South Asian Christians from all over the North of England.
These Christians ‘are one of the most neglected minority ethnic
communities,’ he said.

‘They’re often ostracised by the Muslim and Hindu
communities from which they came, and yet their white neighbours
confuse them as Muslims or Hindus, so they feel they belong
nowhere.’ He is continuing research that ‘aims to raise their profile
and to encourage them to integrate with the wider Christian
community with more confidence.’

Dr John, from North India, was an Archdeacon in
Johannesburg when Bishop David James invited him to Bradford in
2004. Initiatives he launched in Yorkshire included drawing together
local organisations, faith groups and projects to learn about. and
engage in, each other’s work. The Sharakat (Communion) project is
owned by a Muslim Trust and local Christan churches.

Dr John also launched a ‘goodwill gathering’ at the Hindu
Cultural Society, enjoyed strong friendships among the staff of the
Council of Mosques, and welcomed ecumenical support from the
Bradford District Faiths Forum