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Hallo again to all.

We are once again traveling, far away from home. Anglicans Online is for us a passion and not a profession. We can't earn a living doing this, so we need to earn a living some other way. And our 'day job' often requires us to travel, sometimes on very short notice.

Whenever we are away from home on a Sunday, we try hard to attend an Anglican worship service wherever we are. Sometimes that is a challenge: trips to the Czech Republic and Chile come to mind. Sometimes we find ourselves in some corner of what was once the British Empire, in which case it is easier to find an Anglican congregation to visit.

The church that we attended this morning was the nearest church to our lodgings that is listed in AO's parish listings. We went to the early service so that we'd have more of the day left afterwards to work on Anglicans Online. And we sat in the back because we didn't want to attract attention. We wanted the worship experience to be ordinary.

Ordinary it was not. Today was the last day for the priest who has been in charge of that parish for a dozen years. It was a service of farewell. They held only an early service today so that the whole parish could be together to hear the priest's good-bye. And afterwards there was a lavish meal, prepared by parishioners who obviously believe that the best way to honour someone is to offer them more food than they can possibly eat.

The sermon was basically a recap of the past 12 years. We were struck by the contents of that recap. More than half of it was community service, community work, clothing banks, soup kitchens, winter homeless shelters, and organized visits to members of the community who were hospitalized or shut in at home. Perhaps there was no need to recap weekly worship, because it's all written down in the prayer book, but in 12 years a priest might deliver several hundred sermons. Those sermons spoke for themselves, we supposed. He talked about the church's community service and not about its worship service(s).

Upon our return we read this week's online issue of the Church Times, which always has a few news articles that non-subscribers can read. One of those free-to-all articles* was a report by the Church Times on the release of a new survey by the Church Urban Fund entitled 'Good Neighbours: How churches help communities flourish'. The 'Executive Summary' of that report contains these words, which we found so compelling that we quote them here:

We found that churches are engaged in a wide variety of projects aimed at providing essential material and emotional support to local people – this has been well established by previous studies. We also found, however, that churches promote and embody 'neighbourliness' – building, and helping people build, relationships of mutual support. In this way, they are more than just providers of various community projects and social action initiatives, since strong relationships and social networks can help communities become more resilient in the face of social and economic challenges.

Churches are aware, particularly in areas of high religious and ethnic diversity, of being only one of a variety of religious and non-religious community groups and statutory agencies with whom they should and would work. Yet the community engagement of churches grows from nothing other than Christian commitments and practices, and a desire to "seek the welfare of the city".

For the main part, members of churches did not speak about being motivated by a set of abstract Christian principles. Rather, they were shaped by being part of a worshipping community of a particular kind and in a particular context that was responding to their communities in particular ways. This could be described as 'incarnational' ministry, meaning that churches are not just there for local residents but also with local residents for the long term.

We salute the retiring priest from this morning. He obviously knew his community and knew what needed to be done here. We're thinking that when we get back to our actual home, when this trip is over, that we will look for additional opportunities to help with community service though our own church. Maybe we could even start something.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

13 July 2014

*Thank you, Paul Handley.


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