United Service at All Saints Tilford

Sunday 20th January 2008

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  All photos © Benedict Parsons.
Song: “Spirit of God, unseen as the wind”


ALL:  Most high and glorious God,
    enlighten the darkness of our hearts
    and give us a true faith, a certain hope
    and a perfect love.
Give us a sense of the divine and
    a knowledge of yourself,
    so that we may do everthing
    in fulfilment of your holy will;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Voice 1:  I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall be continually in my mouth.
    My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
    O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

Voice 2:  We are afraid for our planet,
    its dwindling resources,
    the consequences of our common greed.

ALL:  I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
    and delivered me from all my fears.

Voice 1:  Come. O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
    Which of you desires life,
    and covets many days to enjoy good?
    Keep your tongue from evil,
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
    Depart from evil, and do good;
    seek peace, and pursue it.

Voice 2:  We are afraid for our world,
    riven by strife, disordered by war,
    hurting and injured in body and mind.

ALL:  I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
    and delivered me from all my fears.

Voice 1:  The face of the Lord is against evil doers,
    to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
    When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and rescues them from all their troubles.
    The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,
    and saves the crushed spirit.

Voice 2:  We are afraid as strangers come among us
    we do not understand their cry for justice,
    we cannot hear their fear and pain
    and yet they are our brothers and sisters.

ALL:  I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.

Voice 1:  Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord rescues them from them all.
    He keeps all their bones;
    not one of them shall be broken.
    Evil brings death to the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
    The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Voice 2:  We come to you O God in joyful service,
    reaching for your promise of a new heaven
    and a new earth, and to the wholeness of justice.
    Charge our lives and our Churches with the power of your peace.
    Overcome our fears and self deceptions with your presence.
    Make us signs of your generosity and justice.
    Light each day with hope so that we may live your truth.

ALL:  I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
    and delivered me from all my fears.

SONG: “I am the bread of life” - Unevensong Choir

READING: 1 Thessalonians 5:14b-18

HYMN: 515 "Lord Thy word abideth"

    (see below)

HYMN: 418 “Father, Lord of all creation”



ALL: Let us leave this place glad to have prayed together,
    challenged to seek unity,
    committed to serve God’s world.

HYMN: 584 “Thanks to God”


THE BLESSING sung by St.Thomas’ Unevensong Choir.

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I give you a new commandment love one another as I have loved you.  So you are to love one another.  John 13:34

Looking back over 19 centuries of Christianity we don’t seem to have taken Jesus’ words very seriously!

“Poor talkative Christianity” someone once remarked - but on his death bed Baron Von Hugel said of the Christian faith that “it made people care - that’s the difference!”

There is such a paradox about the Church - the Body of Christ which so often tears itself apart - and yet we have much to celebrate but, despite the amazing advances the Churches have made over this century of prayer in unions and partnerships and sharing of Churches and a greater understanding of our traditions, we are still tearing Christ’s seamless robe!

My own Anglican Communion is facing schism between illiberal Liberals and over zealous Biblicist traditionalists.  Even Bishops who cannot sit at the Lord’s Table together.

We seem throughout history to fragment ourselves - long before the Reformation there were divisions and warring jurisdictions.  The Reformation accelerated all that - Puritans who went to America created a far more authoritarian and unloving church than they left behind.  Within two generations, they had become Unitarians.

All our churches can tell similar stories.  So what is the answer?

Perhaps we look in the wrong direction - seeking Union and Unification, agreement on Dogma etc.

In the first two centuries of the Church there was no such thing as One Church, there were Churches and Christianities.

It was the role of each local bishop to interpret their church to others - communion was not governed by dogma but by being one in the Faith of Jesus.  Often there were considerable differences of understanding and interpretation - but what outsiders remarked was “See how these Christians love one another!”

It is not surprising then that the General Secretary of Churches Together in England and Wales has called for a renewed understanding and respect for other several traditions - honouring the differences and rejoicing in them.  Like Archbishop Tutu’s “Rainbow People” we need A Rainbow Church.

I leave you with a very challenging prayer which I offer as an agenda for the next century of prayer.

Build us up, O Father, into the fellowship of the free
    that starts in each family and reaches out to the people next door,
    that starts in our own congregation
    and reaches over barriers of custom and prejudice to the church down the street,
    that starts in our own country
    and reaches beyond patriotism and national pride to the nations of the world,
    that starts with our own colour
    and rejoices to claim as brothers men of every race.

Lead us all, O wise and loving Father, to the Kingdom of your dear Son,
    where there is no pain and no fear,
    no hunger and no greed,
    no oppressor and no oppressed,
    but all are fullgrown men in Christ, our only Lord and Saviour.

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