Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Forty thousand sunrises


TUESDAY MARCH 14th 2017 


In January 1907 - 110 years ago - a little church was planted in Rathbone Road.
It was the Mission Church of St Hilda. 

It was the initiative of the new bishop of Birmingham, Charles Gore. He was a pioneer prelate. He had visited the area a few months before and had noticed huge changes even in January 1907. So many homes had been built. Bearwood was spilling up the hill towards Warley Woods. Edwardian terraces were now being planned in Barclay Road. And from that site in Rathbone Road, it was clear that the building out from Birmingham was only going to continue. A church was needed to serve the people. 

It is easy to forget: our church once did not exist.

It was planted in Warley Woods by people of vision.

The Smethwick News Telephone - what a wonderful name for a newspaper - reported Bishop Gore's text in their Saturday edition of February 2nd 1907. The reporter summed up his sermon thus: 'He knew case after case where congregations and churches had grown up out of a tiny mission church and he hoped they would grow up into a great and rich congregation - rich, not in numbers, but in spiritual gifts, and zeal and readiness to help themselves.'

We would do well to attend to his prophetic words. We are still here 110 years on. He preached on a text which urged that we would go, like Paul, out to people to tell them that forgiveness of sins is for them and that they have a place 'among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus'.

The sun rises. The sun sets. Faithfulness continues day after day. The sun has risen and set 40,220 times since then (give or take the odd leap year). Something to thank God for (and leap up and down a bit). Our PCC tonight began with a skipping competition as the Brownies in the next door room in the hall had a skip-a-thon for charity. I wonder what Bishop Gore would have thought had he been there to witness the latest members of St Hilda's prayerfully set priorities for the mission of our church for 2017-18? Would he have joined in the skipping?


  1. If Bishop Gore came today, what would he see apart from Sunday worship? I have tried to think of what goes on in relation to verses from the Bible.

    Matt: 19:14
    Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

    Brownies and scouts, Kumon, mother and toddler, messy church and the youth worker's job

    Hebrews 13:2
    Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

    Support for local charities. Outreach into the community- Messy church, outreach to refugees, events held in church for children, a welcoming church that is inclusive.

    Ephesians 5: 19
    ..speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord..

    The choir, some activities held in the church or church hall by members of the church.

    Matt 25:35
    For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..
    Food bank, outreach to refugees, support for charities and the church in Malawi, opening the church up in the week for those who want to drop in..

    Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
    Lent course and various others held through the church year, hot potato suppers, the blog.

    Levicticus 19: 32
    “You shall stand up before the grey head and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

  2. I am very struck by Bishop Gore's description of the congregation as being "rich, not in numbers, but in spiritual gifts, and zeal and readiness to help themselves".

    St. Paul speaks of "the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ" in Ephesians 3v.8 (The Message version). The riches of grace were evident in the planting of the original St. Hilda's Church, with her mission to serve the new population, to welcome and receive them.

    Our mission, too, today, arises out of Christ's inexhaustible riches and generosity. And, together, we are beginning to discern our prioirities in mission.

    How might we be rich in worship? When worship reflects the diversity of people, and of different ages, our worship will become richer and deeper, not monochrome, or reflecting one preferred style. Those spiritual gifts that Gore spoke about are for all not just for a few.

    How might we be rich in outreach? As we encourage one another and grow in confidence in faith and in our own unique way of being a disciple we will develop Gore's "zeal" for telling others about Jesus in our workplaces and schools, with our neighbours, in our homes.

    And how might we be rich in inclusion? Generous hospitality breaks down barriers, frees people up to talk and share, breaks down barriers and prejudices. Being rich in welcome is part of our founding story, and remains part of our vocation. How might we become even more generous in outlook and more generous with our own financial giving to fund our mission?

    These are the riches God is calling us to, not "success" or financial wealth or necessarily large numbers in our congregation. And God has already blessed us in Christ with all his inexhaustible riches to equip us for the task.

    I think Bishop Gore would be skipping as we continue to heed his call to be rich, but not necessarily skipping in the church hall but out in the parish inviting more to skip with him. Now that's a thought for the next parish walk......

  3. Hi FEE and MMJ! Thanks for both your contributions today. Can I use some edited format of your words in my article for the April Parish Magazine please? I will not identify you (unless you wish me to). Paul

  4. Yes of course. Delighted.