Centenary Celebrations
Preacher - Canon John Everest
Sunday Eucharist 18th July

 

Photographs provided by Peter Green

 

Podcast Recording

 

Address-Canon John

After the service a reunion of the Choir/Servers of St. John's Church
Rex Latter, David Gambrill, Ron Richardson , John Everest, John Whitehead , Chris Peal
Lesley Gambrill, Julie Starmer, Jenny Richardson , Jane Whitehead, Anne Latter

 

Slideshow

Photographs by Peter Jessop and Peter Green

Address

First of all thank you to Andrew for inviting me to preach as part of your Centenary Festival, and to Anne Latter for actually remembering me after all these years. Although, having looked at your website I feel that I have arrived one week too late for the Pimms Party!

It was in 1965 that I last attended this Church, at an early Communion on St Mary Magdalen's Day, the morning that I set off to my Selection Conference for a decision about my Ordination. So the 45th anniversary of that very day is this coming Thursday, 22nd July. I hope that I am right in assuming that you may wish to know something about me as I am a stranger to most of you, so I will begin by talking a little about my vocation and this Parish.

When I left School I was to be a Solicitor, and was articled to Chamberlain, Martin and Spurgeon in Sudley Road. Because I am a singer I joined my Parish Church at Felpham first of all. I then read in the Bognor Post a letter about a new ecumenical Youth Club being formed, and I decided to join. This was the XN Club, which met in the old Hall attached to the rear of this Church.

When you look back over your life as a Christian it is only then that you begin to see the hand of God at work. Had I not read that letter, and joined the XN Club, I should not have been standing here today. Perhaps I can say now how marvellous it is to see some of those original members here after over 40 years, some of whom have travelled from France. Shall we recognise One another I wonder? Peter Mylechreest would also have been here, and sent his regards, but he is working in Florida - at least that is what he says! He is now a very senior and well respected Officer in the Salvation Army.

As a result of the XN Club I then joined St John's Choir in the days of Dr Snow - and almost immediately came into contact with St. Wilfrid's. I hope that his daughter Jenny won't mind me telling this story, but some of you may remember Professor Norman Demuth. Shortly after I joined St John's Choir Professor Demuth's wife died whilst we were practising Brahms' German Requiem. This was to be sung in this Church under Professor Demuth's leadership, and we were not sure whether or not he would be able to do it. However, he did, and one of my moving memories is of him conducting this Requiem here so shortly after his wife's death.

The XN Club produced four people who felt called to the ministry, John Peel whose brother Chris is here today, myself. Peter who had become a Salvationist, and John Whitehead who took up other work. I went to Salisbury Theological College, where Derrick Murch, another member of this Parish, was already studying. Dr Snow may have been a rather unorthodox priest, but we have a lot to thank him for!

My first parish was Moulsecoomb in Brighton, then Bracknell New Town in Berkshire, Southwick near Shoreham, Worcester Diocese as Social Responsibility Officer, Rector of the new City Centre Parish in Worcester, and finally Team Rector of five churches near Halesowen in the Black Country, I retired at the end of April and now live in Worcester again.

Strangely enough in Worcester is a mirror image Church to St Wilfrid's - St Martin's London Road. I couldn't believe it when I walked in ... it even had to stop building its tower when it ran out of money! They are celebrating their Centenary next year, and I bring you greetings from the Vicar, Ken Boyce They went to another almost identical Fellowes-Prynne Church, St Alban's in Bournemouth, for their Centenary last year, and may well be interested in visiting you here as well. (Unscripted mention of the unmarked grave of George Fellowes Pryne at St. Mary's Hayes and that there may be an initiative to see if other Fellowes Prynne churches will contribute to a gravestone - see our web page on George Fellowes Prynne).

So I have a lot to thank this Parish for, and am glad to be here today. The Gospel Reading reminds us that whilst we are not all made the same, we all have the ability to live our lives in accordance with God's purposes for us. Whether we are activists like Martha, or contemplatives like Mary, there is a place for us within God's Church. Whether we are introvert or extrovert, male or female, gay or straight, married, single or divorced, rich or poor, orthodox or unorthodox, we are in relationship with God and have a vocation to pursue together. We may get irritated with each other like Martha and Mary, but we have to learn to live together with difference.

To me that is one of the main gifts that we have to offer the world today - and many of us weep at the way that the Church just doesn't seem to be able to do so at the moment . Throughout my ministry I have worked as a member of a Team Ministry or as its leader, and the way in which we discover the word of God amongst those who are different to us has always amazed and encouraged me. Mary and Martha might well have duffed each other up without Christ's intervention, and living with difference seems to me to be one of the graces of the Christian life. May that self -awareness, mutual understanding and acceptance continue to be the witness of the Church in very confusing times, and may this Church and Parish continue to serve God with energy, compassion and sensitivity into the coming years ahead. 

Canon John Everest

 

 

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