Dear friends, Greetings from St Cyprian’s Church as we move into the autumn season of mellow mists and a lot of rain it seems! For sometime now the PCC has been skirting around the issue of church growth. I sat down the other day to think about what this would look like for us? Are we equipped to undertake this task? Are we ready if it begins to happen? I think we need first to ask a number of very basic questions, such as:
If the Church is so important, why did Jesus speak only twice about it?
Why is it that there are no instructions or a command on church planting in the New Testament, as important as church planting is considered in the Church of England, almost as if our very existence depended upon it?
How does the Church today compare to the Ecclesia in the New Testament?
Let us therefore take a look at the characteristics of the Ecclesia in the New Testament:
Members devoted to their teacher's leading.
Individual and corporate prosperity to meet the needs inside and outside of their circles.
Daily numerical growth.
Ongoing and expanding favour with outsiders.
Signs and wonders.
It was definitely a different kind of church or it looked different. It was always people, never buildings. It was vibrant, expansive, operating all day, every day, with an unstoppable capacity for growth. It set the agenda rather than being an item on somebody else's agenda. So the question is, why such low performance and little social relevance in our Church today?
Could it be that we have confined to four walls, once a week, what is meant to operate 24/7 all over the city in our communities? You see the other side of the church is the Kingdom of God they go together.
And when Jesus launched the church, He described the Kingdom as leaven, light, water, salt. Leaven in a jar doesn't do what is supposed to do. Light that is blocked creates darkness. Water that doesn't run becomes putrid. Salt in a shaker doesn't do any good to the meal. So, we need to take these into society.
When Jesus introduced the Ecclesia, His intention all along, was to co-opt an existing secular institution and impregnate it with his Kingdom DNA.
We understand this by returning back to the genesis of the Ecclesia…..
There were three main institutions in Israel during New Testament days. Number one, the temple. Number two, the synagogue. Number three, the church, the Ecclesia (secular), the word translated church in our Bibles. The temple was the religious place where people met with representatives of God, the priests. The synagogue was another religious place where God's people met with each other. By contrast the Ecclesia, the Ecclesia secular, was a Roman institution where it was an assembly of people deputised by the emperor to introduce and implement the laws of the empire. And the function of that Ecclesia was to teach the language and the culture of Rome until everything and everyone walked, talked, and acted like Rome.
Very interestingly Jesus didn't say, "I will build my temple." Or, "I will build my synagogue." But He said, "I will build MY Ecclesia." Basically what he was implying was there already exists an Ecclesia, a secular one, which is governed by evil forces, but I am releasing a new Ecclesia, a group of people, and when these two meet, mine will win.
When the disciples heard the word Ecclesia, they didn't need much explanation because the frame of reference was a secular entity already in existence in the marketplace, except that this new Ecclesia was going to be Jesus' Ecclesia. Pay attention to this. He co-opted a major institution that was operating in the community with imperial authority and infused it with God's Kingdom DNA. He went beyond that. He also co-opted the Conventus, which meant that when Roman citizens met anywhere, the power and the authority of the emperor was with them. Isn't that what Jesus said about his church? "Where two or three of you get together, I am there in your midst." But it goes beyond that. He also co-opted the term 'apostle'. Today it's a religious term, but in Jesus' day it described the admiral in charge of a fleet loaded with building materials and all kinds of people with building expertise, carpenters, plumbers, engineers, architects, that they were sent out to build in a new territory, a city that looked like Rome.
So my friends reflect on this. He co-opted the Ecclesia, He co-opted the Conventus, and He co-opted the Office of Apostle. And that's why friend, we are commissioned as ministers in the locale in which we find ourselves. We are part of one of those ships taking building material to establish the Kingdom of God in new territory. In the Bible, the Ecclesia was a building-less, mobile people movement, designed to operate 24/7 in the marketplace to impact everybody and also everything.
By selecting the Ecclesia more than over the temple or the synagogue, Jesus chose an agency better suited to succeed in the marketplace because His ultimate objective was to see nations made disciples by inserting the leaven of his Kingdom into their social fibre through the Ecclesia, which are people. Jesus’ Ecclesia, whether in the embryonic expression of the Conventus or in a more expansive version, was designed to inject the leaven of the Kingdom of God into the dough of society so that first people, then cities, and eventually nations would be made disciples.
The participation of each one of us is vital and let's take inspiration from the Apostle Paul, in Acts 19:11 we read, "And all who live in Asia heard the word of the Lord, and God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul." Who performed the miracles? God. Whose hands did he use? Paul. Where is God? Here. Where is Paul? He's not here. Who is here today? You and I. Paul was a minister in the marketplace. Whatever instrument touched Paul became a vehicle for transformation. Whatever you do and touch is potentially a vehicle for transformation.
My friend, without God we can't, but with God we certainly can!
Your priest & Friend
Fr Michael Fuller
Major works. Over the summer months we have been very busy with the refurbishment of the crypt area. The major challenge has been identifying the cause of the ingress of water, causing major damp issues. We think and pray that we have discovered the cause, which was a fractured pipe running beneath the pavement. We have temporarily diverted this pipe and the area has dried out. We have re-plastered the walls using a special sealant and will shortly re-carpet the area and install an additional radiator. All this work has been at cost of nearly £35,000; if anyone was able to assist us with meeting this cost it would be greatly appreciated.
Leaving gift to Prebendary Alan Moses As you will by now know, Fr Alan retires as the Vicar of All Saints, Margaret St on Sunday 3rd November. A presentation will be made at the end of High Mass in the morning. In the meantime All St Margaret St are inviting contributions towards the presentation to mark many years of service to, not only his own parish, but ours as well, during which he achieved much. All donations may be given to me to pass on or alternatively cheques may be sent to their Parish Office. Capital Vision 2030 Listening to London, Listening to God Capital Vision 2020 started us down a journey to becoming more confident, compassionate and creative in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our communities, and to show the love of our Creator. There is much to celebrate and build on – from the 56 new worshipping communities that have started, to the 40,000 Ambassadors commissioned and encouraged to live and proclaim the good news of Jesus. Now, as we begin to look forward towards 2030, we are getting on our knees once again to pray and listen to what God has in store for the Diocese of London.
North Paddington Food Bank. It is truly wonderful that Saint Cyprian’s continues to rise to the challenge of supporting the North Paddington Food Bank. The need is as great as ever, even though the sun is shining! Any contributions you are able to give, in the way of dried, canned food or toiletries would be really gratefully received. Thank you so much for your support.
Choir concert. Our next choir concert will be on Saturday 9th November at 7pm. These concerts are always quite outstanding. Please make sure you join us, Bring all your friends and neighbours. Admission£15.