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North Luton Group

Last week, we heard how Jesus had told the disciples everything that the Father had told him; he withheld nothing.  On Thursday, we celebrated Jesus’ ascension into heaven; his work on earth was complete and as Luke recorded it, “He led them out as far as Bethany and lifting up his hands, he blessed them and while he was blessing them he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.”  And today, from John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ prayer to his Father:

“And I am no longer in the world but they are in the world, protect them in your name - that they be as one as we are one.”

Now, after the ascension, the work of the church will begin.  The disciples return to Jerusalem waiting for the promised Holy Spirit and then empowered they will step out boldly.  Notice though how Jesus insists on both protection and unity.

Now I am a strong believer in church unity.  Along with many others, I have been very saddened by the recent divisions in the Anglican Church and so I always want to support those ventures that promote churches working together.  The most visible of those for St Margaret’s is the North Luton Group of Churches; the partnership of the Luton Deanery to which we belong.  The five churches, ourselves, St Luke’s Leagrave, St Augustine’s Limbury, St Andrew’s Luton and All Saints with St Peter in Bury Park have been working to support one another for a few years now.  Combined, there are at present eight priests and three licensed readers, representing a considerable resource.  When we add to this the active congregations, music, flowers, youth and many other things, there is a potential of exciting co-operation.  Quite a lot happens already, mainly to sustain existing church work.  We cover one another, (giving us important chances to take a break) we ensure that funerals and weddings can always be taken within the group, whatever the circumstances, and as you know, we swap pulpits from time to time.  Our vision though is to do more, to step out boldly doing things together that cannot be done apart. 

Two small examples:

Not any one of the churches has sufficient candidates in any one year for a confirmation service.  Individually we would each practically have to join a confirmation service elsewhere but together we can have our own tailored service in one of our churches caring for our own candidates as we did recently in St Andrews.

A second would be the service of Morning Prayer.  Janet and I share this service, because we have different days off.  Also, as Janet tends to take vacation outside of school holidays, we can offer prayer five days a week all the year round.  Individually, we cannot do that.

There are, when we think deeply about it, so many areas of church life where such extra benefits could come from working together.  For our young people, for example, where alone we do not have big enough numbers but together we do.  We could also put on training events for participation in aspects of pastoral care or maybe for leading parts of services and we could do this with leaders we know, in places where we feel empowered and protected. 

Recently, the clergy prepared a “vision.”  It draws on our Christian beliefs, especially that we may be “one as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one.”  It draws on this, the very beginning of the church, on unity and on proclaiming the Gospel.

The vision comes as a form of “Partnership Creed.”  It is available at the back of church and will be published in Proclamation but the central statement is this:

“We commit ourselves as separate parishes, to work collaboratively in the image of the Holy Trinity always doing together what is better done together yet respecting each other’s situation, across our collective neighbourhoods, with one another, with Christians of other traditions, with people of other faiths and with all people of goodwill to extend the boundaries of God’s kingdom.”  

This is a key moment in the lives of these churches.  We have a prayerfully agreed understanding of how we should work to be Christians in our community.

And so after the creed the work of the church will begin.

We are intending to form a small group with lay members from the churches, a sort of think tank if you like, to participate with the clergy to promote ideas to find those areas where one and one makes more than two, where participation brings a little extra.  If you have any thoughts, please share them with me or one of the church leaders and then when you hear of one of these ideas being launched please support it if you can, so that as Jesus prayed “we may be as one.” 

Amen

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