SPCK and the Lord Mayor's Show
SPCK featured once again in the Lord Mayor's Show, as we continued our tradition of giving a specially inscribed Bible or Prayer Book to the incoming Lord Mayor of the City of London.
This year, for only the second time in its 800 year history, the City of London has a female Lord Mayor, Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE, who was accompanied at the Show by her husband Nicholas. The wife of a male Lord Mayor is traditionally known as the Lady Mayoress, but it seems there is (as yet) no
official title for the consort of a female Lord Mayor!
The presentation of a Book of Common Prayer was made by the Dean of St Paul's, the Very Revd David Ison, outside the Cathedral where the procession stops for the Lord Mayor to receive a blessing. Like last year, it was a very wet day but fortunately the rain eased a little during the ceremony.
SPCK received a mention in the television coverage, and we are very pleased to be part of this historic City of London event.
Picture: Graham Lacdao
SPCK AGM with Sermon preached by the Bishop of Salisbury
SPCK celebrated the latest of its 315 years at its recent AGM, which followed a service at St Saviour's Church, Pimlico. The Society's Chair, the Bishop of Oxford, presided at the Eucharist and the Bishop of Salisbury preached an interesting and apposite sermon (see below).
Welcoming members of the Society to the AGM, Bishop John began the meeting with some very positive statistics: last year we gave away over 12,500 International Study Guides to students training for ministry in the Global South; we sold three-quarters of a million books in the UK and another 400,000
overseas; we had 300,000 page requests on our website; and over half the schools in the country used our Assemblies website. We reached a resolution with Saints Stephen the Great Charitable Trust and the million pounds recovered will help to strengthen the pension fund to the benefit of our former bookshop staff who were in the scheme. The valuable service which the SPCK shops gave to the Church and to their communities over many years was acknowledged with a vote of thanks and appreciation to all those who had been part of this ministry.
A presentation by Simon Kingston gave more details about the activities and achievements of the past year. Our publishing list continues to enjoy a high reputation, covering many subjects at many levels across a wide spectrum. The project to resource literacy programmes in prisons is progressing, following a successful trial of the first two books.
The prayer section of our website has been expanded and usage is growing. Next year we will be launching Words of Comfort - a free weekly podcast resource to help those who are stressed or
under pressure. And there are many more web-based initiatives in development ready to be taken forward as funding permits.
In his concluding remarks, the Chair commended all the staff for their hard work and thanked all those who help to support the Society's mission. He encouraged members to challenge their congregations and others to read more Christian books (preferably SPCK publications!) and to support the Society's Worldwide programmes and Diffusion projects through donations and prayer.
Sermon given by Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury
Nehemiah 8.1-12; Luke 10.1-12
"So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They
gave the sense so that the people understood the reading." (Nehemiah 8 v9)
Thank you for asking me to preach and be with you today. Bishop John asked if I would like to choose the readings but the ones set for the day are fantastic for the occasion. Ezra and the others named reading from the law at the rebuilding of the Jerusalem when the people had lost the tradition. And Jesus
in Luke's Gospel sending out the 70 to declare "Peace to this house" and, "The Kingdom of God has come near to you".
Exploring the tradition
On holiday in northern Jutland in Denmark we were taken to see the largest bog in Northern Europe Europe. It was big and flat and wet. Our host told us about its natural history and started to
explain the ecology. He got a pair of binoculars out of the car boot and a telescope so that we could look at birds almost a mile away. The place came to life as we began to see it through the eyes of an expert.
It was a similar experience on Friday night when an exhibition of the Methodist collection of modern Christian art opened in Salisbury. It mattered that the feeding of the 5,000 was on Canvey Island as the connection between text and context deepened the experience of both.
Nehemiah and Ezra's was a time of restoration, of the people coming back to Jerusalem, rebuilding the temple and having to relearn the traditions once again. It is a repeated pattern that we know in our own generation. The traditions have been lost and we are struggling to re-tell them.
In Britain in the mid to late twentieth century we lived in a period of secularisation. Towards the end of the century there was a growing awareness of pluralism. There is greater confidence that to be human is to be religious. Yet we are not well equipped for this because it is not just the wider society that
has lost touch with the Christian traditions; so have many people in our churches. We need people to explore the Word who are confident with the Christian traditions, know them inside and out
and can help us to a lively well informed faith in the present day.
One of the tasks for SPCK is to help us know and be confident in handling these resources.
Words and their limits
How can we talk about God? Words limit the inexhaustible and greatness of God. That's a great scriptural tradition and why there is a strand in the Old Testament which emphasises that it is impossible to name God. There is a silence too deep for words. And yet, how do we learn, grow, deepen without trying to talk, without wanting to see?
The prohibition of graven images and the distress caused by the worship of idols in the Hebrew Scriptures is because they diminished that sense of the most perfect image of God being a person fully alive. Christ came to bring life in all its fullness. It is what the Christian tradition offers us.
"So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense so that the people understood the reading." (Nehemiah 8 v9)
Looking to the future
Jurgen Moltmann says that the future is more important than the past. You can see it in the sending out of the seventy in Luke's Gospel. They speak Peace to each of the places they go. If God's peace returns to them, they are told to stay, if not, they are told to turn on their heels and go.
Looking to the future in faith is the complex. Prophets are not easy people and do not necessarily carry public opinion. Today the Church of England remembers George Bell. That he is in the Church's calendar must mean there is widespread agreement that he was saintly but in his day he was hugely controversial in his comments about the saturation bombing of Dresden.
Our new Archbishops says that we live in a time of revolution, the Pope says that we need to rebalance the teaching of the Church.
Looking to the future means we need good guides who test ideas, try them out and publish the results. We can use a variety of media for this but the need to publish stands. It is the only way in which we can spread the Word.
So SPCK has a responsibility to help us know, understand and use the Christian tradition and you have a responsibility to look to the future. Christ came that we may have life in all its fullness and today we thank God for a Christian publishing house that keeps this mission alive.
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Prayer for the Week:
O God our Father Creator of the universe...
O God, our Father, Creator of the universe, whose Son, Jesus Christ, came to our world, pour your Holy Spirit upon your Church, that all the people of our world, being led through the knowledge of your truth to worship you, may offer the gold of intellect, the frankincense of devotion and the myrrh of discipline to him who is with you and the Holy Spirit who liveth and reigneth for ever one God, world without end.
Church of Ceylon Sri Lanka
(taken from Prayers Encircling the World, published by SPCK)