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
‘He (God) will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers’. 2Corinthians 1:10, 11
A small boy sat on the quayside, dipping his toes into the cool refreshing sea. Beside him sat an old weather-beaten Cornish sailor.
‘What is the wind?’ Asked the boy suddenly. There was a long pause while the two sat watching the breeze ruffle the water.
‘I don’t know,’ answered the old sailor at last. ‘I can’t tell you what the wind is. But I know how to hoist a sail.’
‘How does prayer work?’ some people ask, to which I, along with many others, would reply, ‘I don’t know. I only know that it does!
Paul the apostle was confident that God would deliver him – yet he asks for prayer. Almost all his letters have an appeal for prayer support. Young, inexperienced Christians are urged to pray constantly for the mighty apostle! Even Jesus asked his disciples for their prayers. Why? Again, I don’t know. But I do know that when we pray, God works.
( David Watson – Pastoral Letters)
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
On the 4th of October (Feast of St. Francis of Assisi) we celebrate our first decade as a (new) Franciscan Order. It is for me a joy to write to you all to thank you for your encouragement, prayers and practical support these past ten years. It has been both a challenging and exciting ten years in so many ways. The Order is now dispersed around the world, in the USA, England, Scotland and Uganda. Our main charism of Reconciliation has brought us together from many strands of the Body of Christ. As the late Bishop Tony Palmer said, there is ‘Unity in Diversity!’
At the moment the Order is made up of consecrated Sisters and Brothers from the following churches/denominations: Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Orthodox, Presbyterian and Free Church.
Many have come along side us these past ten years from the different traditions, Communions, Denominations. It has been my privilege to work and pray side by side with Christian sisters and brothers from many church families. It too has been an honour to minister to many people, fellowships and communities, sharing the vision God has given to us.
As to the future….
We are now looking to set up a mother house here or in the USA where the Order can establish a more conventual life in community together. We will also be seeking charitable status for the Order. In addition to this we will be looking to develop and spread the ‘Prayer Chair’ ministry on the streets, so that what was once undertaken within church buildings will be taken out into the market place, enabling the light of Christ to shine in the world around us, touching, healing, freeing and restoring broken lives. We will continue to work with the marginalised and homeless here at The Little Portion and around the world.
My prayer is that we will continue to be bridge builders in the Body of Christ and channels/instruments of the Shalom of Jesus to both the Church and to the world around us.
In the words of Pope Francis, “…may our relationships mirror more beautifully and joyfully the unity of Jesus and the Father.”
The invitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to the Roman Catholic ecumenical Community of the Chemin Neuf to live at Lambeth Palace and share in the life of prayer there, is a great step of seeing outside the box. Pope Francis’ message to the Charismatic Leaders Conference in the USA and his further invitation to a number of Protestant evangelical charismatic leaders to visit and dine at the Vatican, along with his visit to the Pentecostal Church in Rome where he asked forgiveness for the way Roman Catholics had treated their Pentecostal brothers and sisters and the response by the Pentecostal leaders, is a sure sign of the move of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ!
Bishop Tony Palmer saw there is Unity in Diversity and that we should learn how to celebrate our diversity, rather than point fingers of accusation against those who do things differently than ourselves. John Arnott in an article from July in Revival Magazine speaks of how Pope Francis spoke of ‘Reconciled Diversity’. “We were there [with Pope Francis at the Vatican] to cultivate a friendship, to hopefully be reconciled in the midst of our diversity, and to come together in a joint effort to reach the world for Christ. He coined the relationship as ‘Reconciled Diversity’. I am unclear if the term originated with him, but what he meant by that term is that regardless of our various distinctives, we can all work together. Regardless of who we are historically: Protestants, Evangelicals, Catholics, Charismatic, or Orthodox, the hope is to be reconciled as Christians and come to a formal consensus about what we all truly believe the basis of salvation is really about. We all agree, including Pope Francis, that salvation is through faith in Christ alone as he is the only Saviour, the Son of God.” (July 11th Revival Magazine)
I pray that the next ten years will see us drawing closer together as we draw closer to Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour. I pray that our eyes and hearts will be open to the unction and guidance of the Holy Spirit and as that old song says, “…they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christian by our love”.
The Wind of the Spirit is Blowing…Let us keep praying!
Br. Michael Daly. CJ
Servant of Communion