Blessed are you, Lord God,
our light and our salvation;
to you be glory and praise for ever.
From the beginning you have created all things
and all your works echo the silent music of your praise.
In the fullness of time you made us in your image,
the crown of all creation.
You give us breath and speech, that with angels
and archangels and all the powers of heaven
we may find a voice to sing your praise
from Eucharistic Prayer G, Common Worship
A HAPPY AFTERNOON. Good house visits with good conversation about allsorts in the sunshine. I always come back from afternoons like this one reminded that there are some really wonderful people in the world, people of faith, people of courage, kindness, and solid down-to-earth goodness. And I often come back feeling that many people go out of their way to encourage and affirm.
The job of parish priest in a fairly large place like Bramhall often involves being what the parish profile, six years ago, called “the conductor of an orchestra”. I think that most parishes need the sort of leadership a conductor provides. It’s usually an unhappy, or at least a “going nowhere” sort of a parish where the only voice to be heard is that of the priest, (or any too-vocal individual for that matter) just as the sound of an orchestra requires vastly more than the voice of the conductor.
If the pastoring and other work of the Church in this place had to be done by the priest alone there’d many more thousands who’d have little or no contact with the parish church at all. Being “the Body of Christ” in this place involves every person’s call to pastoring of some kind or another, and to each is given a particular gift, a distinctive, discipling voice. A good translation of the word discipling might be “learning on the job!” - in our case within a big, big orchestra.
A large team
Bramhall Parish Church relies upon the gifts of a large pastoral team, and upon teachers and encouragers, and upon buildings and financial specialists. And we’re always actively hoping and praying for candidates for ordained ministry in the wider Church (currently four such people engaging with training and the processes of discernment, study and formation). We rely on praying people, and visiting people, and musical people and other artists and contributors of every conceivable kind.
And we’re constantly on the look-out for the ways in which all our members might be encouraged in life and ministry in the world, and right here in our own neighbourhood. (Not all of it church-based of course – we ought never to limit the word “ministry” to purely church-related sending or activity. The work of God is not confined only to the Church, or to any other religious body).
But in exactly the same way that an orchestral conductor likes sometimes to actually play an instrument or instruments, so, too, this “conductor” likes, whenever possible, just to get out and about amongst the people of our parish. It’s good to get alongside the different instruments and have a chance to play one’s own.
Whatever I’m doing here in Bramhall, and on whatever the day of the week, or the particular nature of the activity, there’s one thing I am certain of: we need each other. Every child, woman and man upon earth has a contribution to make towards the good of all. Whatever our faith tradition (or the lack thereof), whatever instrument we play or the song we sing, wherever we’ve come from and wheresoever we think we’re going, each and every one of us is made for and called to good conversation, thereby co-creating “the Peace that passeth all understanding”. Making great (and sometimes silent) music.