Last Christmas, (our first Christmas here as a family in Australia), I managed to clock up a whole set of speeding fines – you might as well know the secrets of your new priest right at the beginning.
It seemed like whenever I was even just over the speed limit there was a camera waiting around the corner for me. And so I made a resolution, which only lasted in the end for a couple of hours, that I would not drive the car any more. It was simply becoming too expensive for me to allow myself to drive on the roads.
As I say necessity, and the lack of bicycle, meant that that new resolution didn’t last for very long. (And I might add that I haven’t had any more fines for quite some months now). All of this came back to me in a flood of energy on Saturday afternoon as I sat in the barber’s shop waiting for my mandatory pre-commissioning hair cut, as I read in the West Australian about a man who had become so incensed about his speeding fines that he destroyed one of the speed cameras and is now facing a fine of $100,000.
The Church has tended to be fearful (and I am not talking about this Parish of Greenwood, I’m speaking more generally than that) – the Church has tended to be fearful about anything which might be moving at a great speed. As people who have had our identities formed at least in part in the Church, we are probably fairly comfortable about change in our churches coming as slowly as possible. The problem is, that the strategy of no-strategy, or the strategy of non-movement leads us to be caught up in an institution, which rather than moving too quickly, has made the decision like I did, not to even begin the journey. Too often the church comes to the view that rather than risking going anywhere too fast, it is better to not go anywhere at all. Well that isn’t the kind of church which together we will carry on building here in Greenwood.
This afternoon I was re-reading a chapter in “Anglicanism: the Answer to Modernity” which is a collection of articles by College Chaplains at Cambridge University. And Ben Quosh in his article in that book asks us to imagine ourselves as aliens, who have arrived here in Perth, trying to work out what is going on around us. And Quosh’s argument is two-fold. He says, on the one hand, that if you look at the national newspapers you could get the idea that the Church is almost completely invisible in the life of the nation, except for some coverage of its internal naval gazing, and of course the stories about when its priests get things horribly wrong. There would be little evidence, he says, in the national newspapers, or on the television news networks that the church played any significant role in the life of the country. But he says, on the other hand, if you as a visitor from another planet came across some local news – the discussions going on in the supermarket, or in the community centre or in the local press, you would uncover a very different story. In the local context, the life of the church is an intrinsic part of the life of the whole local community. It isn’t a special interest group, it isn’t an oddity. It is rather a place which provides an opportunity for reflection, a place of meaning, and a small community which reaches out to the wider community, not simply to grab people and bring them into the church, but to do good things in the name of Jesus, the embodiment of good news.
We may have many views here in this community about the direction in which we should be heading, and the speed with which we should be moving. But if you share with me in anyway (and I hope that you do), some level of excitement about building on all that has been done here in the past and moving beyond the walls of this place as messengers of good news to those who live and work in this parish, then I think that we have a wonderful time ahead of us.
Luisa and I and our family are excited to be with you here, joining this community as it seeks to reach out to those who live in our Parish of Greenwood and South Kingsley. As we seek to be a community of good news to the wider community around us. I am very grateful for your presence here this evening, as Luisa and I have been welcomed, we now in turn welcome you. We welcome clergy colleagues from the Diocese, and particularly those who join us from the Deanery and from other denominations in this area, I look forward to working alongside you. We welcome our dear friends, the elders and clergy from the Sudanese congregations. We welcome Knights and Dames and Brothers from the Sovereign Order of the Orthodox Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, who I serve as Chaplain, you will always be welcome in this church. We welcome friends from Duncraig, I can also see friends from Midland and Swan, thank you for sharing this with us. We welcome our family and friends, thank you for your love and support for us. There is more baby sitting to come.
Thank you for being here, all of you who are members of this Church, we will be getting to know each other very soon. And finally on behalf of the whole congregation I want to thank our Bishop for being with us on this his last Episcopal visit to the Parish before he and Robin make their momentous move to Newcastle.
My only regret today is that there is no bell here for me to ring as a sign of my arrival. There is a wonderful tradition in the UK that you ring the bell for the number of years that you plan to stay in the Parish. A friend of mine recently caused widespread panic in his new Parish in London when he rang the bell eighteen times! Someone up the tower was desperately trying to cut the rope by the end of it all! So thank you for being here. May God bless this community in the months ahead.