As we start the New Year, we mark the beginning of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.  As a collaboration between the World Health Organization and International Council of Nurses, it seeks to raise the status and profile of nursing and Midwifery recognising their place at the heart of tacking 21st Century Health challenges.

Why 2020? Because it marks the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale whose birthday falls on the 12th May the day I was installed in 2018 as the 133rd Bishop of London in St Paul’s Cathedral.  In the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral there is a memorial plaque to Florence Nightingale where she is remembered simply for her Mercy.


Florence Nightingale is still best known as the doyenne of the nursing profession.  She is less known for her contribution to hospital reforms, her contribution to public health, her statistical innovation (in analysis and the presentation of data) and as a theologian (including writings such as Suggestions for thought).

Florence Nightingale was baptized into the Church of England.  She made no secret of the experience of a literal ‘calling’ from God, a ‘call to service’ on a precise date of 5th February 1837. (page 8 Florence Nightingale At first hand by Lynn McDonald 2010) She is said to have offered the church her ministry but it would not have her yet her Christian faith continued to shape her work and in an address to nurses in 1873 she said ‘ Feeling God has made her what she is, she may seek to carry on her work in the hospital as a fellow worker with God.  Remembering that Christ died for her, she may be ready to lay down her life for her patients’ (page 10 Florence Nightingale by Lynn McDonald)

Florence Nightingales faith is the key to her work:  She told her sister in 1853 that:

It did strike me as odd, sometimes, that we should pray to be delivered from ‘plague’ pestilence and famine’ when all the common sewers ran into the Thames, and fevers haunted undrained land and the districts which cholera would visited could be pointed out.  I thought that Cholera came that we might remove the causes, not pray that God would remove the Cholera’

For Nightingale, the burnt offering that God desired was action. She believed that God wanted us to act, to reflect God’s glory to the world by making it better, with practical achievements. Healing the sick was doing this, showing God’s goodness by doing His work in the world.

As we enter 2020 challenges remain for our NHS and for both Nursing and Midwives and Anne – Marie Rafferty’s comments in 2011 (nursingtimes.net 24 June 2011) remain relevant

“We can read Nightingale as a credo for compassion today. She recognised that systems needed to foster and institutionalise compassion, and that small touches and details mattered. Leading by example and embedding a code of behaviour that could be sustained even in your absence was and should remain our goal today.The challenges we see in care are not new. We continue to fail the most vulnerable members of our society. We need to acknowledge there is a problem, accept responsibility and understand the dynamics of why some organisations succeed and others fail.Clarity of purpose, moral courage and a coalition for action was Nightingale’s response to the call. We need to do likewise – to light and lead the way.”

As we enter 2020 Florence Nightingale’s faith remains an inspiration as do the words on her memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral “Blessed are the Merciful” .

And so my New Year’s resolution is to:

act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God” Micah 6:8


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‘Jesus was the human face of God, God’s self-portrait glimpsed in the puckered vulnerability of a newborn baby’.

Sermon Preached by The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally
Bishop of London
Midnight Service St Paul’s Cathedral 24th December 2019


The Christ Child has arrived. After months of buying presents, preparing food and planning. He is here.  We are here – I wonder what your journey was like getting here – I don’t mean just to the Cathedral but to Christmas eve?

Although your journey to the Cathedral may well have been interesting too.  I recently returned to St Paul’s’ Cathedral and stood in a tube train, standing packed in like sardines in what is known as the central line.  More parts of my body touched strangers than was comfortable and then 6 more people got in and tensions were high – so I looked into the eyes of the person who I stood nose to nose with and said – ‘As we are standing so close maybe I should tell you may name’ – the people around began to laugh and by the next station strangers had become friends.

As we tell the Christmas story we tell of Christ’s welcome by his parents, the shepherds, wise men and the angels, we forget that not everyone became friends that night. Some were not so welcoming. The innkeeper, for example, who turned his family and him away, or King Herod and Emperor Augustus, who acted with overt hostility toward Jesus him. Yet this was all part of God’s design.

The Christ Child became vulnerable to make us safe. He left his father in heaven to invite us into a new family.

In The Times one Boxing Day, a former Bishop of Oxford John Pritchard talked about how it is our claim as Christians that ‘love came down at Christmas’, and that this was embodied in the only form we could ultimately understand – a human life. ‘Jesus was the human face of God, God’s self-portrait glimpsed in the puckered vulnerability of a newborn baby.’

From the outset, the Christmas story sets the pattern for Christ’s ministry and the picture of God’s love.  The outcast made the insider and the stranger become family.

When Matthew’s gospel tells us of Jesus’ heritage, the list includes Tamar, Rahab and Ruth – all marginalised women.

In the gospels Mary who Joseph had mind to divorce quietly sings her song, the Magnificat – “God has scattered the proud and exalted those of low degree, filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty” – she sings of revolution.

The shepherds, social outcasts, were not trusted in their community enough even to give evidence in a Jewish court of law, but hear the angels declaring that God was with them: “Gloria. In Excelsis Deo.”

Wise men are outsiders to the Hebrew faith but who, against all the odds, came and worshipped at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus’ ministry is shaped by the stranger – the women at the well, the leper on the road side crying out, the women who had been bleeding for 12 years and touched his cloak, the tax collector – yes he even ate with the tax collector – and it was women who witnessed the resurrection.

All who were included not by chance but as signs of the kingdom of God. No wonder the angles cry Glory to God in the Highest. I hope you know you are family.

On one night of all nights God entered our world with an infant in his arms. In him we got a permanent glimpse of God, and we see, the face of God. The face of one who welcomes the stranger.

Despite how close we stand on the tube; London is one of the loneliest cities in the world. According to the Greater London Authority’s Survey of Londoners, over half of us have been lonely in the last year, with just 19% saying they never feel alone.  Those under 24s are most likely to be affected. One 23-year-old living in our capital put it like this: “loneliness can often feel like British weather. Suddenly the clouds disperse, and you have a long unexpected heatwave of joy, of feeling included. Other days it starts raining with no warning.”

And some groups are even more vulnerable. If you happen to have a disability, the barriers faced in everyday life make loneliness more likely.[1] Likewise Pakistani, Gypsy Roma, Irish Travellers, and the homeless are more vulnerable to loneliness than other ethnic groups because of racism and lower incomes.[2] In other words, those on the margins find themselves doubly disadvantaged.

Rabbi Sacks said that he used to think that the most important line in the Bible was “Love your neighbour as yourself”. But love the stranger occurs no fewer than 36 times. Rabbi Sacks said that he realised that it is easy to love your neighbour because he or she is usually quite like yourself. What is hard is to love the stranger, one whose colour, culture or creed is different from yours.

From Genesis to Deuteronomy, the command to love or welcome the strange was central in Israelite understanding, care of the “resident alien” or “foreigner”, for widows and orphans, or “the least” of that society and context. God calls on us through the Old Testament scriptures to extend a particular welcome to the outsider, the one not at home, the one who is vulnerable and thus in need of hospitality.

Jesus reaffirms and reinterprets the idea of welcoming the stranger: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” And when they wonder when it was that they offered him hospitality, he says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” In Jesus’ interpretation, the “least” are to be viewed as the face of Christ himself, as God-with-us.

These days, it can sometimes seem that there is increasing fear around welcoming strangers or refugees.  This speaks of a broader distrust of diversity and difference. In times like these, the idea of making space for a stranger seems vastly removed from our reality, a naïve hope. Yet there are examples all around us where intentional welcome for other people who have been made “strangers” or vulnerable, people who are presumed not to belong or not to matter and it makes a difference.

As we welcome the Christ Child today, let us remember that we are called to be part of God’s family and we are called to form a river of angels that shelters the homeless, the displaced, the refugees, the strangers, all of whom are the face of Christ. So, in a world that so often turns vulnerable people away, let us continue to be people of welcome, knowing that through our hospitality, God is able to make strangers into kin.

In John’s gospel we read of Jesus: “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

To follow the Christ of Christmas is to become part of God’s family in heaven and in the church family here on earth.  Amen.

[1] https://bit.ly/33PsX6M

[2] https://bit.ly/36dZ0yD

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For we have heard of your faith

ALMA is the Diocese of London’s Companion link with the Anglican Church in Angola and Mozambique, and part of the network of Companion Link Dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion.

During the last 18 months I had heard much of our partners and their faith in Christ Jesus.  Visiting the Diocese of Lebombo, in southern Mozambique during August this year was a wonderful opportunity to experience that faithfulness and put faces to my prayers.

We can fall into the trap of thinking that we have much to offer the partners of our links – my experience is that we have much to learn.  The parable of the Good Samaritan gives the model for the act of love going beyond what we see is conventional.  It teaches us that love come through seeing the other, not simple as I see them but in the light of God who has created us both.  That recognition leaves us not only capable to reaching out in support of other but also being willing to receive support from the other. Without my neighbour I cannot become my full self.

London adopted a pre-existing Willesden Area partnership with Lebombo (started by Bishop Donald Arden in the 1980’s when he retired to Harrow after his time as Archbishop of Central Africa).

The ALMA covenant was signed in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1998; was renewed in 2008 at the ‘River of Prayer’ Service before the 2008 Lambeth Conference and extended in 2018 for 2 years until the 2020 Lambeth Conference when all partners will be together to sign the next covenant.

My visit was to the Diocese of Lebombo, in southern Mozambique, covering 5 provinces + Lebombo side of River Zambezi in Tete province which was founded in 1893. Eamonn and I were very grateful for the generous hospitality of Bishop Carlos Matsinhe, Bishop of Lebombo, and his wife Hortência.

Mozambique’s history has been shaped by war; the war of independence 1964-1974 and then civil war between 1977-1992.

The church has played significant part in the peace processes with the now retired Emeritus Bishop of Lebombo, Mozambique, Bishop Dinis Sengulane, and the Christian Council of Mozambique  being part of the negotiation and initiating the TAE project – transforming arms into tools /swords into ploughshares which has taken over 900,000 weapons out of commission and turned many into pieces of art (see: Throne of Weapons and Tree of Life in Africa Gallery British Museum or Music Man hosted at St Paul’s Old Ford and read ‘Object 98’ in Neil McGregor’s ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’)

I arrived on the 6th August a day on which Mozambique’s president and the leader of the country’s main opposition group signed a new peace accord, pledging to end years of violence and facilitate elections in the fall.

In signing the Peace and National Reconciliation Agreement, President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade said they would peacefully participate in Oct. 15 elections.  Bishop Carlos lead the prayers at the end of the event.

At home in a city in which divisions hold the potential of deepening the lessons of a country who have known war for over 50 years must be worth listening to.  The biggest one being is that peace begins with us.

At the service of ordination at St Cyprian’s Maputo I preached on John 20:19-23 ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”’  I reflected that lives lived in the presence of Christ and filled by the spirit produce peace.  Peace is not something which happens because we are tired of fighting, but it is intentional, it is something which we need to put on. Part of the ministry as priest and deacon is to bring peace.

Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world, but the generosity and hospitality of the people was obvious. I am now the proud owner of many Capulana which is a thick cloth printed with beautiful art worn by women.

The church in Mozambique is growing. Its vibrant witness has had a major impact at a local level through church planting, choirs and bands, youth groups, Mothers’ Union, the Bernard Mizeki Guild for men and ‘Umoja’ community development facilitators. Nationally the churches have been heavily involved in their countries’ peace processes.


The week demonstrated that we share some common challenges not least; the encouragement of lay leadership, the development of clergy, how we encourage young people, how we create financial sustainable churches and how we plant new churches.

I was very impressed how Bishop Carlos was modelling the involvement of lay leaders and their Catechists mirror our Licenced Lay Ministers. The Bishop intentionally uses lay people at every opportunity and is providing training to bring about the culture change with clergy.

We attended the launch of a new ecumenical youth project in Maputo.  They, like us, lose young people when they leave Primary school.  By involving young people in the development of worship they are finding encouragement.  I met some great worship leaders who are working with the young people to form choirs among other activities.

The Diocese encourages churches to develop means for their own financial stability and I met several entrepreneurial women who are giving their time to projects for their churches in a country where they cannot depend upon the giving of their member.

I met several church plants; they have planted 20 in five years.  They start off with a family who have been travelling a long distance who start meeting in their home.  Once established, a priest is then provided, and the church builds the building.  I was struck that they have learnt, like us, that none of this grows quickly, they often support enthusiasm even when little structures are in place and their plants are predominantly Anglo catholic in nature.

Since 2016 women have been able to be ordained and the first ordinations are likely to happen in 2020 in Lebombo Diocese.  Bishop Carlos used my visit to underline his support of women as priests and I met with those in training and we specifically used several events as vocational opportunities.

Bishop Carlos modelled shared ministry and took every opportunity to give me a role in sharing ministry including in the ordinations – I am very grateful for this and it reflected an intention I have rarely seen in the Church of England.

We pray for Mozambique every Wednesday as part of our Diocesan Cycle of Prayers – prayers used in St Paul’s Cathedral each week.  The visit has enabled me to pray in a different way with faces to the names and memories of the places.  I have not only heard of their faithfulness, but I have now seen it and the fruit which it is bearing, and I am giving thanks.


In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,  because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.  (Colossians 1:3-6)

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Keys to the Kingdom of God

Sermon Preached at St Paul’s Cathedral 29th June 2019 at the service for the Ordination of Deacons
Ezekiel 3:22-end, Acts 12:1-11, Matthew 16:13-19

deaons 2019 begin

For those of you being ordained today there is much which is new which I am sure makes you feel uncomfortable- new collars, new robes and new stoles – signs of your orders and you will be given other new items – You will be given a new bible as a sign of the authority given you this day to speak God’s word to his people.

Friends and family’s will; give you gifts – sign of their love and support for you.

And tomorrow or Monday many of you will be given a bunch of keys. Serving in the church means that we find ourselves keepers of keys – keys to the church gate protecting a building from vandalism, keys to the church front door closed to keep unwanted people out, keys to the photocopying room locked so it is not missed used, keys to the church hall, key to the safe – often historic and far too big and if you are lucky you may be given the key to the side door! – You will develop deep pockets!

Keys become a sign of authority – and if you are not careful you begin to act as a gate keeper.

Peter in our gospel passage declares that Jesus is the messiah the Son of God and Jesus goes on to tell him that he will be given the keys to the kingdom.  These keys are not about keeping people out but rather about opening the way to the kingdom of God.

And what the disciples and we so often miss is that the kingdom that Jesus speaks about is not about buildings, property or wealth or power. It is about love, generous and extravagant, there not because of what we have done but because of what God has done and our call is about making that love, generous and extravagant known – making known what God has done in Jesus Christ.  The keys Peter is given and you have are not about locking people out but are there to open up – to open up to others the possibility of coming into the presence of God, opening up the possibility of finding the hope that you have come to know in Jesus Christ.

Now if you are here today to support one of these ordinands and you don’t know the love of God ask one of these people being ordained about it – having spent time with them I know they know the love of God as seen in Christ Jesus – it has transformed their lives.

In our service we have heard that Deacons are ordained so that the people of God may be better equipped to make Christ known and to be heralds of the kingdom – to know and to make know the love of God.

Christian service, the service into which these women and men are being ordained, should always follow this pattern, the pattern of the incarnation, the pattern of humility and vulnerability. Too often service from a position of strength and security becomes an exercise of power.

Pope Francis has said this about his vision for the Church – for the Roman Catholic Church, but it will do for us too: ‘I prefer a Church that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. ’  (from Guadium Evangilii – The Joy of the Gospel)

Maybe we need to be more generous not just on the keys of the kingdom but also the keys to our churches?

Today you are to be ordained as deacons you are going to have great fun in your parishes, but ministry is not grand. Being a Christian, a disciple, is not grand, being a deacon is not grand you are to reach ‘into the forgotten corners of the world that the love of God may be made visible’. That is what ministry is about.

Reaching into the despair of prisons, or to reach into the darkness and loneliness of sickness, depression, unemployment and broken relationships. Reaching into the shadow of death. Reaching into the places and towards the people who fear that God is not for them, that forgiveness is not for them, that grace is too far away to reach and to make the love of God known.  That is what ministry is about.

Today as we ordain these women and men, we celebrate Peter – I wonder if Peter ever regretted being given the keys to the kingdom. Peter who ran out of the boat towards Jesus but whose faith failed as he went under the water, Peter who ran to defend Jesus in the garden but who then denied him around the fire, Peter who only when he came to himself in prison realised there where angels.

There will be times when you may regret that you have been given this ministry.  It is then you should remember that it was Jesus whose hand reached out towards Peter as he went under the waves, it was Jesus who met Peter on the beach after his denial and asked him to feed his sheep and even when Peter didn’t recognise the angels God was with him.

There may be times in the future when we regret our calling but do not forget that we are not alone, there may be times when we are confident in our ministry but remember that we can’t not do this alone. We can only do this by the grace and power of God.  We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus remembering who he is for us and we need to pray that God will enlarge our hearts and understanding of scripture.

You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God. Pray therefore that your heart may daily be enlarged and your understanding of the Scriptures enlightened.

deacons 2019 st pauls

Pray earnestly for the gift of the Holy Spirit it is only then that we may use the keys given to us with the wisdom and generosity of God.

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12th May 2019

Today marks the anniversary of my installation as the 133rd Bishop of London.  It occurs on International Nurses day. My clasp on my God Cope is my Nurses Buckle and here is the address I gave at the Nightingale Nurse Awards on Friday.

20190512_112936 (001)

Address given at the Nightingale Nurse Awards to celebration International Nurses Day 10th May 2019 Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

I am delighted to be here today; it has been my privilege to have been a nurse. My training as a Nightingale has shaped who I am and whilst I am not now a registered nurse – you can take the nurse out of nursing but never nursing out of the nurse.  Following my time as the government’s Chief Nursing Office I moved into the Church but continued as a Non-Executive of NHS Trusts and now as an independent governor at Kings College London University all because of my passion for nursing.

On the 12th May 2018 (Florence Nightingale’s Birthday) I was installed as the 133rd Bishop of London the first to be a women and I could not do what I do today if it was not for my faith and if I had not undertaken the training I was privilege to have been part of – it has enlarged by capacity to be with people, to stay with them when it would be easier to walk away, it has developed within in me a reflective practitioner and the ability to apply a theoretical framework for which I am grateful.

Today we celebrate nursing and midwifery and mark your achievement.

If you haven’t guessed already I am a great fan of nurses and midwives and the NHS. As  a former Chief Nursing Officer, I have seen some of the best care in the NHS not just in this country but across the world and I am often reminded that the most extra ordinary nursing care is seen in the ordinary acts carried out day after day by nurses.

Since I started nursing over 30 years ago much has changed.  No longer are there frilly hats or starched aprons or back rounds and nurses are no longer only known by their surnames. Life expectancy has increased, although one in every two born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer more people are surviving, and babies are surviving when we only would have dreamed of it.

I have to say that I am not sure I would have what it takes to nurse today – 12-hour shifts, the dependency of patients has increase, expectation of nurses and midwives has increased, and public expectation has changed.

What hasn’t changed is that at the heart of nursing and every nurse I believe is compassion and kindness.

Nursing is not just about being technically effective or competent or skilled or what you do it is about how you do it – I believe that the art of nursing is in the application of the science. I have learnt that what makes the difference to the care people receive is often about the ordinary which makes the extra ordinary difference.  How they are afforded respect, dignity and value, how their loneliness and anxiety is relieved. Never forget that you may have carried out a procedure 100s of times for those you care for it is the first time they may have gone through it.

It is kindness and compassion which make the real difference – putting patients first.

Kindness is one of the most underrated virtues in today’s world. It isn’t bland or soft or feeble or weak. Kindness comes when, even where it isn’t deserved, we dare to offer an opening to humanity and mercy, regardless of cost or reward. It is more than being nice and it can be very demanding in certain circumstances.

Compassion comes from the two Latin words “Com” meaning with and “passio” meaning to suffer. Compassion is an attitude of heart and of mind. It is more than being nice to someone for one moment, it is a word which recognizes that a level of commitment is required, and it acknowledges that we need one another. Compassion requires us to be present not thinking about what we have done or what we are about to do but with someone alongside them. Compassion is not always easy, it is hard work, frustrating and requires persistence and passion.

Compassion and kindness have been the concern of those involved in the Health Service across the centuries. Historically, developing the “compassionate character” was the impetus for care, and gave the nursing profession its ethos. In Florence Nightingale’s view, good nurses were good people who cultivated certain virtues or qualities in their character – one of which was compassion. Patients were expected to be the centre of all nurses’ thoughts. Nurses had to always be kind (but never emotional) because they were caring for living people, unlike plumbers or carpenters.

However, I have often reflected that nurses reflect our society and reflect the compassion of our society.  In my present life one of my challenges is how I, how the church play’s its part in making a more compassionate world.

In a world which is becoming more complex nurses are rightly being trained to degree level and further and taking more roles, but the demonstration of compassion becomes even more important. Our training of nurses needs to include the training of compassion and kindness.

Do not underestimate your ability to make an extra ordinary difference to the lives of others.  You can make a difference to individuals, but also to healthcare.

I know that life is often pressured, kindness and compassion need time and resources and I know that you may feel that the structures, resources and systems push kindness and compassion out but do not under estimate your ability to change those.be the change you want to see in the world.

Having trained at the Nightingale School of nursing I have a complex view of Florence Nightingale however she does continue to be a model for us as nurses. She saw how you had the ability to care for the individual and to change the systems and structures to enable more kind and compassion healthcare.

Anne – Marie Rafferty writes

“We can read Nightingale as a credo for compassion today. She recognised that systems needed to foster and institutionalise compassion, and that small touches and details mattered. Leading by example and embedding a code of behaviour that could be sustained even in your absence was and should remain our goal today.

The challenges we see in care are not new. We continue to fail the most vulnerable members of our society. We need to acknowledge there is a problem, accept responsibility and understand the dynamics of why some organisations succeed and others fail.

Clarity of purpose, moral courage and a coalition for action was Nightingale’s response to the call. We need to do likewise – to light and lead the way.”

Let us not just celebrate our past in nursing and midwifery today but celebrate the nurses of today.  I pray for you and I also pray for nurses and midwives of tomorrow.

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Precious oil poured out

My Sermon at the Chrism Mass


I am glad to be here – not just in the Cathedral on Maundy Thursday but here in the Diocese of London – am I am grateful to have journeyed with you.  I know that is has meant change not just for me but also you.  However, despite what the Diocesan directory may indicate no we have not subsumed the Edmonton Area into Kensington – not that much has changed!

Today our service is about ministry and about our re commitment to follow Christ Jesus – the renewal of ordination vows and the blessing of oils for the anointing of the sick and dying, for the signing of the cross at baptism, and the oil of chrism.

I thank God daily for the ministry with which we have been entrusted and I want to thank you for the ministry we share and to which you have committed yourself – thankyou.

Like some of you, I had never heard of the Chrism Mass growing up. But I have come to love the Chrism Mass.  It is the one time of the year which brings together not only members of many of our parishes, but also those from the Diocesan Offices, licenced lay ministers, priests and deacons.  The oils we bless today will be used throughout the diocese in the sacraments which build up, heal and strengthen the Body of Christ.  The Chrism Mass is a beautiful sign of our unity and communion in Christ.

Oil has been used from ancient times for healing and for strength.  The Oil of Chrism has a strong, sweet-smelling essence which is an apt sign for the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Oil pervades things; it soaks in and remains.

Our readings remind us that anointing with oil is to be set apart. Jacob anoints a pillar of stone on which he rested his head and dreamed of the ladder climbing into heaven.

As the people passed through the Red Sea and came to Mount Sinai Aaron and his sons are anointed with oil, thereby setting them apart for holy service to the Lord.

Later Hannah in her prayer looks for the day in which a king will sit on the throne of Israel, and he will be God’s “anointed,” his messiah.

The anointed one is the chosen one. God chose Saul to be the first king, and he chose David to be the second king. He chooses the lineage of David to be on the throne, and even many of the kings of the northern kingdom are chosen by him. Then a messiah – an anointed one – the one who is consecrated, as is a priest, for holy service. He is one chosen, as is a king, by God to serve God’s purposes.

And Jesus opening the scriptures read;

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.

Today we are reminded in our Eucharist service that it is though Christ broken body and blood which was shed that are able to give thanks that we are worthy to stand in God’s presences to serve him.

And we are anointed for his service – oil to remind us of our baptism, oil to remind us of healing, oil to remind us of our ordination and of our consecration and oil which will be used at our death.

I know the cost of ministry and we can only renew our commitment to our call if our lives are rooted in and refreshed by the love of God in Christ Jesus. Today as you stand in God’s presence receive from him the oil of gladness, a garland instead of ashes and the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit be renewed in the Holy Spirit and be equipped for ministry.

At my installation nearly a year ago Psalm 133 was wonderfully set to music and when the psalmist speaks of the precious oil poured on the head of Aaron’s they speak of it running down, down upon his beard, down up his collar of his robes. This precious and expensive oil was not just sprinkled on the top of the head, it was a real soaking and because of the ingredients, myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia and olive oil (exodus 30:23-25) the recipient was left surrounded by an exquisite aroma.

Let us allow God not just to sprinkle us with his spirit but to anoint us allowing the oil to soak us and let us pray that it aroma will remain with us in the days and weeks ahead.

And to what are we set apart for at our anointing? To build up the ancient ruins, to repair the ruined cities, to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, to comfort all who mourn. To give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

All of which at this time takes on a renewed meaning in a city where division seems to be growing, where the blood of young children continue run on our streets because of violent crime, where those who have travelled to be part of our community feel unwelcome, where those sleeping on our streets continue to grow in numbers and invisibility.

Let us pray that over the coming months that we may know what it is that God is calling us to as the Diocese of London as we listen to God and listen to London.

Our ministry should reflect the act of Mary, who poured oil out over Jesus’ feet which years later John remembers as the fragrance filled the room; counter cultural, extravagant, an act of intimate love which is costly and the fragrance of which is remembered.

Let us this Maundy Thursday as we commit ourselves to God’s service pray for his anointing poured out over us and let us pray that we may anoint others in his service and to his glory.

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To follow Christ is to love our neighbour

My sermon preached on the 24th March 2019 at the Berlinerdom

Guten Morgan

It is a honour to be here in Berlin and to bring greetings from our Diocese of London.

London is both an ancient city, established by the Romans, and a thriving, modern capital with a prominent place on the world stage.  Like Berlin it is a world facing city which is multi-cultural and multi faith, it is both cosmopolitan and suburban, economically successful and confident. It is a city of energy and diversity – London is open to all.

But it is also a city of inequality and deprivation. The Capital is home to more multi-millionaires than any other city in the world, but it is also home to some of the most economically deprived citizens in the UK.

And this year, we find ourselves in turbulent times. The ongoing discussions around Brexit mean that many of us are living with a profound feeling of uncertainty. Deep divisions in our society have been exposed, and now we are faced with an ongoing political process which risks deepening them still further.

There have been few others in our lifetime which have been more polarising, or unsettling.  But, of course, division is not new. Historically, we have found ourselves to have unbearable, seemingly irreconcilable, differences before, and no doubt we will again.  These divisions have their route in questions of meaning, belonging and identity.


Our challenge in this time is not to pretend that we are all alike. We clearly are not. But to recognise, and hopefully learn in some small way to overcome, our intrinsic nature which pushes away others and tries to carve out territory only for ourselves and realise that we have more in common than divides us.


Scripture tells us that right from the beginning, when two brothers – Cain and Abel – come to blows, we have been pushing away the people closest to us.


The story of Cain and Abel gives us no-one else to blame. There was no peer pressure, no-one else to impress, no money or land to claim.


Simply, one person was jealous of the other. He thought he was being overlooked by God. ‘What about me?’ might have been his thought, as envy ate him up, and he killed his brother. Scripture tells us that, from the very outset, this has been our struggle.


But we as Christians are called to follow God’s example, as dearly loved children to walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We Christians, alongside other people of faith and of goodwill, live in and serve the whole community – where there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; no British or German or European for all of us are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) We are here to serve our communities and to bless them. To carry hope and peace, and to demonstrate the love of God to everyone.  Servants and neighbours to those around us.


When Jesus was asked a question about the path to eternal life his exhortation was first to love God utterly and completely, and then to Love your neighbour as oursleves.


Today in London or Berlin our neighbour could be anyone.  That may literally be the case.  We cannot guarantee that the person living next door will have been born in the same country as us, speak the same language or share the same faith.  The mobility of the global population of both rich and poor is re shaping our counties and refiguring our neighbourhoods everywhere.  Our neighbours can be any one and the growth in technology means that our neighbours could be anywhere.

There was a time when it was possible to live in communities where virtually everyone was based together and shared the same faith and values.  We now live with difference.  This can be a great strength and multi-cultural societies can be enriching but it does challenge our shared values.

The question who is our neighbour is not just about the action of the neighbour but also about our understanding of God, the identity of the neighbour, it is about who can be trusted, who can be befriended and who do I need to love.

It is so much easier to view ourselves as the Good Samaritan the one doing good being moved with compassion. But Jesus was putting his audience in the role of the person in the ditch.

To love our neighbour as ourselves not only demands us to be compassionate but it requires us to recognize that others – including our enemies can be bringers of compassion to us – in being compassionate we need to see mutuality so that both parties find value.

If we only see ourselves in the role of the Good Samaritan we in some sense see ourselves as part of an exclusive set of like people, people who “do good” to others.  But if we understand our own vulnerability and need to receive compassion and this it opens the possibility of relationships based on equality and mutuality.

Followers of Jesus Christ believe that every human being is created in the image of God and we are not made in isolation.

As my colleague the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, has said recently, in responding to the tragedy of the fire at Grenfell Tower in London:


“The Christian view of social relations tells us that my neighbour is not so much a threat, or a limitation, but a gift. If my own individuality is constituted by my relationships, not my own inner elusive personality or choices, then without my neighbour I cannot become my full self.”


We belong together in a creation which should be cherished and not simply used and consumed. This is the starting point for the Church’s engagement with society, the nation and the world.

To build community in our cities, across our cities and the world does not just happen because we want it to.  It takes a willingness on our part to embrace difference to realise that we have as much to gain and to give. The man in our gospel reading coming to follow Jesus was warned that here would be no prestige or perks waiting for him. Rather, he would have to give up his place of honour among the religious establishment. He’d be expected to endure sacrifice and hardship. To follow Christ is to love our neighbour even those who are different to us and we need to recognise that will require effort and cost.

We live in uncertain times and despite apparently political difference we have more in common than divides us.  We must not put our hand to the plough and look back at what could have been but forward to the kingdom of God where all are one in Christ Jesus.






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