Paul Rattigan welcomed to the Diocese


 

Saturday saw our new Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Canon Chancellor of Leicester Cathedral, Paul Rattigan welcomed to the Diocese, in a Candlemas service in which he was licensed as DDO by Bishop Martyn, and installed as a Canon by David Monteith, Dean of Leicester.

 

Paul, who is married to Anne,  joins us from Liverpool Diocese where he was Canon for Discipleship, and combines a passion for encouraging and enabling vocations and discipleship with a love of Cathedrals.

 

Bishop Guli, who preached the sermon in the service, commented “We are delighted to be welcoming Paul and Anne into the Diocese. As DDO Paul joins us at a crucial point as we seek to develop our wider vocations strategy which includes increasing both the number and range of people exploring ordination. Paul combines his passion for encouraging and fostering vocations with considerable experience of and commitment to Cathedral ministry so he is an ideal fit for this combined post. He will be based at the Cathedral but have plenty of opportunities to travel all around the Diocese. I’m personally looking forward to working with him and hope he and Anne will be very happy here.”

 

The service also featured music led by both the Cathedral Choir and the music group from Church of the Martyrs, prayers led by children and the blessing of the new Paschal Candle and congregational candles, and every member of the congregation left with a candle as a reminder of God’s light with us.

 

Bishop Guli preached during the service. See the transcript of her sermon below:

 

The wideness of God’s tender mercy embraces the pierced heart

One of the most formational experiences of my ministry, took place nearly 20 years ago during my curacy. About four months after I’d been ordained priest and while I was 7 months pregnant with my first child I was called to the bedside of an elderly man who was dying. I sat with him for a while, anointed him and then I said the Lord’s Prayer. As I held his hand and sensed the life draining out of him I could, at the same time, feel the baby kicking within me – the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. It was a profound and moving moment in which I was deeply conscious of the humanity that unites us all – whoever we are – we are born of woman and we die, and we have precious time in between to make a difference.

Every moment in time links us to what’s gone before and to that which lies ahead. Though we experience life in isolated chunks, and indeed we strive to live in the present moment, each of those moments is part of a wider context. And today, both liturgically, and in welcoming Paul into the life of our diocese I’m especially aware of. In the Church calendar we celebrate the presentation of Christ at the temple, the feast of Candlemas and we are at the pivot point, with the events of Christmas and the birth of Jesus behind us, with Lent and Holy Week beckoning us onwards. We see from this vantage point the full scope of the Christian story even as we turn our gaze from the joyful stable scene towards the cross which lies ahead. For Paul and Anne too, today represents a turning towards something new. A recognition of all that’s brought them to this place, thanksgiving for what’s been, great hope and expectation for all that lies ahead. And as we greet Paul, so we say thank you to Helen for all she has been and done as interim DDO and wish her every blessing in her ongoing ministry.

I love this story of Jesus’ presentation at the temple for all kinds of reasons. There’s so much we could unpack but for today let me just say that I see within Luke’s narrative a sweeping summary of the Christian message in terms that are inclusive, in terms that are gentle and tender, and in terms that are realistic. Let me try to say a little more about each of these.

It’s typical of Luke to be concerned with balance, fairness and inclusivity – with a breadth that demonstrates the wideness of God’s love and mercy. I like to think of him as a bit of a feminist before his time, always concerned to include women and recognise their place in the fledgling Christian community. Here he balances the voices of the prophets by including Anna and Simeon. Telling of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Jerusalem, unusually he writes in verse 22, of the time coming for “their” purification according to the law of Moses rather than Mary’s purification alone as was the Jewish custom. Now I know that’s not what we heard in today’s version of the reading, and although I do think it’s helpful to hear familiar stories told in new ways, The Voice translation does skew the emphasis of the original text in one or two places, and perhaps it’s worth being mindful of that. But if you’re not so bothered by issues around gender, then in these days when we’re wanting to recognise the gifts and contributions of all the baptised, consider that both Anna and Simeon were lay people, not priests of the temple, lay people offering their blessing and sharing their prophetic voices. And then the inclusivity of races and nations as Luke has Simeon proclaim Jesus as a light both for the Gentiles and the Jews, or in today’s version of the reading, Israel and the other nations. This is no exclusive message. The salvation offered through Christ is for one and all regardless of the many differences that divide us.

And this ties in with the theme of tenderness underlying the central message. For we’re reminded at Christ’s presentation – through the words of Simeon especially – that salvation comes through a tiny child. As Martin Luther described it, God became small for us in Christ and in so doing showed us his heart, so our hearts may be won. Babies wield a kind of power which disarms. Even strapping men with rough hands become soft as puppies when handling a baby and powerful people with gruff voices adopt a gentle cooing sound. God came down not to thrash evil doers or crush political powers. God came as an infant, to elicit love and to nurture tenderness within us and to turn upside down our notions of what it means to be strong and powerful.

But in the end, the message of Simeon and Anna isn’t a schmaltzy story of innocent childhood untarnished by the abrasiveness of life. It’s realistic, honest and gritty yet always rooted in hope. Luke presents us with some challenging questions. For example, what does it mean to offer blessings to those who are living in poverty? Mary and Joseph were poor in worldly terms. The text hints at this by telling us that they offered a sacrifice of either a pair of turtle doves or two pigeons, rather than a lamb as was expected of those who could afford it. I wonder how it felt to be told they were blessed, as they struggled with their day to day existence. And it begs the question, what is the responsibility of the Christian community to care for those to whom we offer blessings?

Another question, what does it mean to be faithful in worship and the observance of our faith when life is tough and it would be so easy to opt out. Just imagine everything that Mary and Joseph had gone through in the weeks and months leading up to the presentation: entrusted with a divine mission probably sooner than they felt ready, travel to Bethlehem, to Egypt as refugees, back to Nazareth and now to Jerusalem, not to mention the sheer exhaustion of caring for a baby, barely 40 days old. And yet here they are, faithful and present before God in amidst all the adversity. And there was more of it to come. Simeon speaks of the Christ child, not as one who was safe and harmless but as one who provokes a crisis, for Simeon, Anna and ultimately for all people of every generation. For how we respond to this child decides everything about the course of our lives – it may even involve the piercing of our hearts in one way or another (as it would for Mary). Will we, knowing that, continue to be faithful, as Mary and Joseph chose to be?

Finally, there’s another little matter about today’s translation of the reading that bothers me, and please forgive me but I need to get it off my chest. In verse 34 Simeon speaks of the child Jesus causing the rise and fall of many. We’re familiar enough with that idea in our own often fickle age – the rise and fall of celebrities and politicians, in vogue one day and derided the next. And yet what Simeon actually says is precisely the opposite. In the original text he declares that Jesus will cause the falling and rising of many. We are not promised a smooth journey, there will be falling and piercings and suffering but in the end there is rising with Christ. The babe who is born for us is also the one who dies for us and is raised to glory so that all may have a share in the heavenly kingdom.

Paul as you join us here in Leicester Diocese, both in your role as Canon Chancellor and DDO, I pray there’ll be a wideness in the scope of your ministry reflecting the breadth of God’s embrace. May you be gentle in your approach yet realistic and honest in helping people navigate their way through the complexities of life and faith. May God bless you and Anne and may we all benefit from your ministry as we journey together.

Licensing of Paul Rattigan as DDO and Canon Chancellor

Feast of Candlemas, Luke 2. 22-40

Leicester Cathedral, 2nd February 2019




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