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Diary: Sister Rosemary

22 August 2014

by Sister Rosemary


Every knee shall bow

I WAS delighted to read the Revd Lindsay Llewellyn-MacDuff's account of prayer centred on the Name of Jesus, and recommendation of the restoration of the feast of the Most Sweet Name of Jesus on 7 August (Faith, 1 August).

This is of particular interest to our Community, since we are dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus. We began as a Sisterhood in the new parish of St Peter's, Vauxhall (which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary), and, like many similar communities founded at that time, we took our dedication from that of the parish church.

So we might have remained as one of the many Communities of St Peter; but, when the young Community recognised that its particular calling was to the work of mission, it seemed appropriate that the Sisters should be explicitly dedicated to Jesus the Saviour.

With this dedication, we adopted 7 August as our feast of title, and the date for our main Community celebrations. Cranmer had pruned many of the medieval feasts, but this was one of those restored as black-letter days in 1561, since it was a feast of our Lord. Propers were proposed in 1928, but by the time I entered the Community, in 1976, the feast seemed completely unknown to the Church at large; no one could understand why we were so wedded to this apparently insignificant date.

Modern liturgies offer no propers for 7 August; so we borrow them from 1 January, which is now known in Common Worship as the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. But, as Ms Llewellyn-MacDuff points out, the relevance of the Name is much wider than this one moment in the life of Jesus.

We should be very glad if this feast could indeed be restored to general observance in the Church of England - ideally before our own 150th anniversary next year. 

Guarded welcome

AT THE General Synod this July, we passed the long-awaited legislation for women bishops. The mood afterwards felt less like euphoria than exhausted relief - "Thank God it's done at last." But (though it would have been difficult to grasp this from the secular media) we did discuss some other subjects as well.

In recent Synod meetings, we have, rightly, given much attention to the question of safeguarding. In the Church, as in society at large, we are realising more and more what terrible damage is done to people who have been abused, even many years ago, and, also, how effectively it has been concealed for so long.

Our priority must be to do all we can to make sure that churches are safe places for all, especially for those who are most vulnerable. But the necessary checks, and the barring of access to anyone who might possibly present a risk, come at a huge cost to the mission of the Church.

We want our churches to be welcoming places, where newcomers are greeted with unsuspicious friendliness, and encouraged to offer help where it is needed, and where sinners are forgiven. We sing "All are welcome," but, as guardians of those who need protection, can we afford to mean it?

I am afraid that this will be on Synod's agenda for a very long time.

Financial lifeline

A MORE pleasant topic on the agenda was a presentation about the launch of the Churches' Mutual Credit Union. Since the banking crisis, and all the publicity about payday lenders, and the even more rapacious doorstep lenders, there has been a sense that there must be a better way for people to manage their finances.

When the Church calls for more ethical financial arrangements, the standard response has been to suggest that Christians do not understand "the real world", in which money rules. A proposal such as this, which does not simply deplore the evils of pursuing profit at all costs, but offers a workable alternative system, should do much to restore the Church's reputation in this sphere, and give hope to those who are suffering from the current situation. 

Talents on display

OUR Community has recently been enjoying its annual time of meeting, discussion, and celebration - centred, of course, on the feast of the Holy Name. In recent months, we have been feeling more than a little battered, both by the fact - common to many communities - that we are an ageing bunch, and also by some particular health problems that mean life is more of a struggle than usual.

One response we have made to this is to assemble an exhibition of Sisters' creative work: knitting, sewing, drawing, painting, photography, writing, etc. As we thought further about what might feature, there arrived a jar of marmalade, and pictures of branch house gardens. We were amazed at the talents that there are among us. Perhaps there's life in the old Community yet.

The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the Holy Name in Derby.


Sat 28 May @ 06:58
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