Licensing of Canon Bruce Bryant-Scott – Crete Oct 12th 2018 (Acts 27, 13-26; John 20, 19-23)
Revd. Canon Leonard Doolan
I chose the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles for purely pragmatic reasons. It mentions Crete which connects the island to the journey of the great apostle St. Paul on his way to Rome which would his place of martyrdom.
The second reading tells of St. John’s version of what we would otherwise call Pentecost – it his powerful statement of the risen Jesus Christ outpouring the Holy Spirit on his disciples.
By the end of this sermon I hope to have joined up these two rather disparate readings.
If you were here for the liturgy on the Feast of Pentecost this last May, you would have heard a sermon from me about authentic witness. ‘If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it is a duck’. An authentic description. I further added, just to complicate things, what sounded to be an octopus (χταποδι), but I was actually describing bag-pipes (γκαιδα). Try playing a Scottish reel on an octopus, or eating a little dish of marinated bagpipe!
Our priority is always towards authenticity. We have in Fr. Bruce and authentic priest, called to leave Canada and cross oceans and lands to come to Crete to live and work among you as the priest for the Anglican congregation here. Most of you will never know just quite what a Herculean task it has been to make this happen – and local formalities are still to be completed.
Bruce and Frances have made sacrificial choices to make this gargantuan change of life and place. We should all note this, and not forget it. This is not a case of being able to persuade a retired priest to venture out from England to be your chaplain. Their decision to serve here comes with a distinguished degree of trust, of hope, and of faith.
If he speaks like a priest, acts like a priest, and has the vision of a priest, then truly we have a priest of God in our midst, and to this all we can say is Alleluia!
Here in Crete, this island that St. Paul sailed past on his way to martyrdom, we have a small but faithful congregation of Christians that express the Anglican tradition – a fine tradition that harnesses catholic heritage and the biblical insights of the Reformation. These are both great blessings to our church. The Anglican tradition enfolds principles of well ordered worship, but also risk- taking mission. Each of these elements, and more, are essential for the building up of a healthy authentic church community. If only one or two are employed then there will be an imbalanced church community here. It will be in-authentic, and as such it will never truly be the church of Christ here in this place. The reason being that unless the church is truly authentic it will be denying the Holy Spirit, this same Holy Spirit poured out on the disciples after the mystery of the cross and resurrection.
The Holy Spirit is alive and well here in Crete, for the Holy Spirit is God’s continuous ebb and flow of life and breath for each of us.
I have known this congregation since I first visited it in 2003. I have seen early conversations develop into confident growing of a church community. The rate of growth and development was almost worthy of the way in which the Acts of the Apostles book tell us about a growing church. There is now a building – a fine and flexible building – there are 2 retired priests here, a deacon in training, and now the appointment of licensed priest. However, along the way I think I can safely say there has been a faltering of that early confidence. What was so positive and outward looking into the community has withdrawn and become a bit unsure of itself and of its future. Personal relationships have become strained, and maybe the church community has not been so precisely the authentic community we wish it to be.
Fr. Bruce will help you to refresh yourselves, to re-orientate yourselves back towards a wider concern for the community, to reinvigorate your faith and confidence, and to re-imagine how it might be to be the authentic Anglican community again, here in Crete.
Please take risks for the sake of the gospel. Many English speaking people visit this glorious island every year – be imaginative about how to reach them. In our second reading Jesus says to his little group of rather frightened disciples ‘Peace be with. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. This is your, our commission also.
In a year’s time, if I don’t have people in the present congregation sending me emails to say that Fr. Bruce has changed this, and changed that, then I will more than mildly disappointed. In two year’s time, if the complaint from the same people isn’t that all these new people who now worship with us want to change things, then I will equally be more than mildly disappointed.
So we enter into a new period of hope for St. Thomas’s Crete. It is a pivotal moment, and it will only transform the future of this place if all work together with a common vision and a common commitment to growing in faith and growing in numbers.
It is a challenging task ahead. But don’t worry. Fr. Bruce will be there to animate this potential new church life; I will be there sitting at my desk grumbling about the emails I’m getting from Crete complaining about how everything is different; but most of all, you have on your side God’s Holy Spirit.
Immediately after the bit of the reading we had this evening, the risen Jesus appears again, this time in the presence of St. Thomas. It is Thomas who says of Jesus, ‘my Lord and my God.’ God is faithful. Trust in him.