Rectorís Letter
The Rectory, December 2002

Revd Canon Andrew DeucharI have heard it whispered (not widely) that some people are not sure where I am coming from, theologically speaking. Well, if that means I am keeping people guessing, Iím delighted! One of the most incomprehensible features of church life is the desire to stick labels on people, especially clergy. I suppose it has something to do with this longing for comfort and security. If we can put this or that person neatly in a box, then we can decide whether they fit or donít fit our expectations, and then it is easier to deal with them.

The interesting thing is that, as a relative newcomer to St Peterís and an even newer comer to All Saintsí, I have to say Iím not quite sure how to label them either! And that too is a good thing. Both churches try hard to be open to all, regardless of background, tradition or personal circumstances. Excellent! But that openness, which is undoubtedly attractive - and you wouldnít find me in any other sort of parish - brings with it its own problems to do with identity, the things that hold us together. This becomes ever more apparent as we face the need to change and develop, because it seems that, actually, there is not a great deal of common ground amongst us. I remember Eileen saying to me when I first arrived that needed to recognise that there was a ĎSt Peterís way of doing thingsí. And of course that had to do with leading worship in the best possible way - decorum and order and beauty, but without fuss; but there are also undertones in that phrase that suggest that no-one has the right to suggest change, that the Ďtraditioní dictates rather than those who have chosen to make their spiritual home in either of our congregations. I know that for every person who wants no innovations in our liturgy, there is another who wants change; for every one who detests any hymn written after 1950, there is another who would (in moderation) like something a bit more modern; for every one who loves the traditional formality of the worship, there is another who would welcome a little more informality.

Back to basics

So, it will never be right, whatever we choose to do in the future. But at Christmas time, we are surely drawn back to basics. Christmas is unquestionably time to reflect on what our priorities are. Our transcendent, glorious God in a manger. The Word made Flesh. Not in a church, not surrounded by great music and fine vestments and silver tableware, no great actors, no recognisable VIPs, no powerful preachers, no fussing about details, no sulking about this-or-that that has or hasnít happened. Just one mighty outpouring of love, God among and within his people, immersed in our joy and our pain, our darkness and our light, our hopes and our fears. In the Incarnation, God makes his priority absolutely plain - he will stop at nothing to love his people, and he gives everything he has in order to show to us once and for all what his love is like. These are the Ďtidings of comfort and joyí that we celebrate year and year about.

Of course, in the Christian year we tend to use Lent as the period for stripping down to basics and repairing our faith commitment, but perhaps it is actually during Advent and Christmas that we are most powerfully reminded that the complexities, the minutiae, the frustrations of being part of a church community are no more than fripperies, baubles on the tree of faith. It is digging deep to the roots of the tree, down to the foundations, to allow the Spirit of God, alive and at work in each one of us, to take us beyond the immediate, the superficial, to begin to reveal the glory of the vision of God in his creation. Thatís what I believe we are about, and unless we continually engage in that exploration for the God who loves us and is born in us, then what we have to offer others is little more than a faÁade, a house built on sand.

What sort of Rector have we got?

So, label me if you wish - the heart of my belief lies in Johnís Gospel - ĎGod so loved the world that he gave his Soní. The Incarnation transforms the world and enables us to encounter God in one another and in the richness of creation (thatís catholic). This is great news for the world, and we need to live as if we believe it (thatís evangelical). God invites all people, in every place, regardless to his banquet (thatís liberal), and he has a special place (and so should his church) for those who are outcast, those who are the least of our sisters and brothers (thatís called radical, but is actually the basics of the Gospel).

So may the joy and the beauty and the simplicity and the peace of our Incarnate God reign in your hearts and in your homes this Christmastide and always.

Andrew Deuchar
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 15th December 2002