The Emperors New Clothes.
Serving the Church and local community is a great blessing…to see lives transformed, to see people freed from prisons they have been in for years, to see shackles removed so that people are free, to see the hungry fed and the dead brought back to life…this is the grace and mercy of God. I have been privileged with my Franciscan Brothers and Sister to have been part of this ministry and service in Bexhill on Sea, at The Little Portion in St. Barnabas Church.
In 2010 we were invited by Fr. Roger Crosthwaite to set up our ministry within St. Barnabas Church in the town centre. From here we have continually ministered the love of God to the homeless, the lonely and the marginalized. We have seen lives renewed and transformed. We have wept with those who weep and laughed with those who have found joy and peace. We have worked tirelessly and for no reward to bring the Good News to the community and to the transient nomads who pass through the town. Our clothes bank has covered and warmed many who either visited us or were found on the streets by the local Street Pastors. We have prayed with, baptised, and buried a number of souls who came to us seeking solace and wholeness. We have seen healing renewal and restoration of broken lives, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
On Tuesday 20th September I was called by one of the new clergy who have been appointed by the diocese of Chichester to oversee the church that gathers at St. Barnabas. I was asked if I could meet for a coffee and chat.
At the meeting I was told and later given a letter stating what was outlined at the meeting. The Franciscan order of the Companions of Jesus was no longer wanted in the church as we were deemed not to be under any authority and so not accountable.
We were told that:
- The Worship area is a fixed space. This means that the Church cannot use this space for other activities. The Church of England does not allow this fixed space unless it has what is called a faculty. The faculty jurisdiction is the Church of England’s regulation of works to church buildings, their contents and churchyards. It ensures that churches are properly cared for, and that whatever is done to them is properly considered beforehand and carried out in the most appropriate way.
- Bishop of Chichester has what is called the Cure of Souls and he shares this with his priests. This means all the souls of the parish are in our care and the Bishops authority is given to the priests of the Parish to minister in his name. in other words, I am accountable to him for the ministry in the parish. The problem with your ministry is there is no accountability, as far as I am aware.
We were therefore given four weeks to remove the Little Portion and the Clothes Bank for the homeless and we were to cease to minister in St. Barnabas.
How do I respond to this excommunication…this casting out?
My first reaction is hurt and yet I am not in any way shocked at this pharisaic, narrow minded, bureaucratic stance. But, I see that letting this pass over and just accepting matters as part of life’s strange tapestry would be dishonest….I have some questions that need to be looked at and I dare say answered.
I am a Christian…that is, my life is hidden in Christ..I have the Spirit of the living God living in me and the risen Lord is my friend and the one who called me to follow…and I seek always to serve those I share this earth with..out of love. (Not that I always or in any way come up to the mark!) I am a member of His body, known as, The Church! The Body of Christ! The Bride of Christ! I am a small but essential part of a body and my role is no less important than those called to other parts/ministries in the body.
The two points raised as reasons for our removal are open to scrutiny and I intend to look briefly at these points.
Beginning with the first point..
I am told that the Worship area is fixed and cannot be used for other activities. What does this mean? The Little Portion was at the side of the church and did not take up space in the sanctuary or in the main part of the church. The little Portion was used to minister healing and prayer to those who were in need. It had been used for this purpose with the full knowledge of the diocese and the Bishop of Chichester, the Bishop of Lewes and the Archdeacon had been in St. Barnabas and seen our work and I was told personally by the Archdeacon that our work was needed and he asked that it would continue. Never once was it ever questioned, nor were we ever told that our work was inappropriate or in breach of any faculty, rules or regulations. You would think that one of the Bishops or the Archdeacon would have said something…..? It would also seem rather strange that the area can be used for craft fares and other activities…but when it comes to the ministry of the gospel and the healing or cure of souls…it is out of bounds!
As to the second part of the objections…The Cure of Souls!?
If our presence was allowed for the six years with the full knowledge of the Bishop, local ordinary and Archdeacon…you have to ask how did this accountability somehow pass their scrutiny?
No! This is purely the religious nonsense and hypocrisy of those who have control issues and are as far from the kingdom as the earth is from the sun!
As a Franciscan Order and Community, the Companions of Jesus are looked on by many in the institutional churches as being outside of the box…and this is what we are! We do not fit into the controlling, manipulative and domineering control of theses wonderful servants of God…whatever god that is…and I for one am delighted that we are and ever will be..not part of that game!
Br. Michael Daly, CJ.
Servant of communion
Companions of Jesus