See also my blog for St Martin’s Epsom https://acurateslife.wordpress.com/
I feel I am beginning to know something of what it is like to be a leper.
As you may have noticed I have been regularly wearing my dog collar and walking around Epsom. I have been wearing it when I need to (when I am explicitly on church business saying morning and evening prayer, conducting pastoral visits and the like) and when I don’t – when going to the Post Office, Ryman’s, Staples, Maplin, Greggs, McDonald’s, various Public Houses – you will form an impression of the sort of person I am from the places I frequent. A busy person who doesn’t have much time for lunch but likes beer and gadgets and Post-Its.
Why am I doing this? – my children often ask me this.
I confess to mixed motives. It took me the best part of five years to get ordained, jumping through numerous ecclesiastical hoops, completing dozens of essays, and filling in countless forms – I feel I have earned it.
Secondly, I like wearing a uniform – I miss my school uniform – I like to know what I am wearing when I get up in the morning. I don’t like choices – even deciding which tie to wear can cause me great irritation.
Finally, and most importantly, it is a form of easy, low impact evangelism – both for the Gospel and for the Church of England.
Indeed, before my ordination both Andrew, Bishop of Guildford, and Paul Bryer, Archdeacon of Dorking, specifically asked me to wear my collar as much as possible.
By being seen to be a normal person doing normal things I am hopefully helping to remove some of the pre-conceptions that people have about the church of England and its priests. To transform people’s beliefs
And I know this is a genuine issue– I can tell because of the reactions I get – and this is where the leprosy parallel comes in.
Women with children often move their push chairs to the other side of the pavement – I like to think it is out of respect – I fear it is because they assume that a man dressed in a collar is likely to be dangerous to their children.
Muslim men will also physically move away from me which is quite amusing. Am I for them Haram – unclean – or am I the representation of a Crusader? Something to be feared either way.
Children stare and parents take them by the arm as if I were some unfortunate
Some people cross themselves – what is that about? I am not an undertaker or a vampire.
That people behave so strangely suggests there is indeed a problem. Hopefully, the more they see me the less odd it will be and the more that they will think about the second part of the soft evangelism.
Because by being seen I am hopefully making people think about God – even for just a moment. To think about what they are doing in life and why – to have a sense that they are a small but important part of something much bigger. To remember to count their blessings and acknowledge their infirmity.
And I can see that also works – I can see that from the way that some people smile at me and some people refuse to meet my eye and look away – some people have a problem with God – I would love to know why …
To do that I would need to stop and talk to them – to get to know them as people. But that is getting harder as we have fewer full time priests with the time to meet people where they are.
When I was reading the lectionary for this morning and in particular as I thought about Naaman and these 10 lepers I came to see that the Church of England itself is in danger of becoming a leper in its own community.
Increasingly shunned from hospitals and schools, even the leadership of the Church talks about it being in slow and ineleuctable decline as if it had a terminal and incurable illness.
Well, perhaps – and certainly if the Priesthood of the Church hide themselves away and if the management of the Church gives up on its position in society and builds smaller and smaller colonies for a smaller and smaller group of increasingly homogenous believers then the end is certain.
But I am not happy with that and I doubt you are either.
So what can we learn from these bible stories of healing that may be relevant for the Church of England that it might be healed and given new life?
This is after all the challenge from the Bishop of Guildford with which we are wrestling at the moment to respond to his call for a Diocesan Mission Strategy – that we look to transform our church so that it can transform the lives of others
And I think we can indeed learn from this morning’s stories of miraculous healing – from Naaman and from the 10 lepers.
First there is the all-important point of contact – of transmission of the Gospel: for Naaman the story of Elisha comes from a captive slave girl – even the most unlikely people can be evangelists.
Each of us can be the one who calls others to God. Indeed each of us should do this. How many people have you invited to join us in church today? Just imagine if we had all brought one extra person with us.
How does Jesus meet the Samaritan leper? He gets out and meets the people – he travels from Galilee to travel to Jerusalem and meets the lepers on the way. We need to keep doing that – getting out and meeting people where they are.
Then there is the question of what we do, how we receive the Gospel – what do we do with it?.
For Naaman it is obedience, humility – recognising that he does not have all the answers. He is healed by bathing in the river Jordan – the rivers of Damascus do not cut it. He has to be obedient to the word of God’s prophet Elisha, move out of his comfort zone and try something new.
Part of our transformation may lie in understanding what we can do ourselves and for what we need assistance from others. That we may need to move out of our comfort zone and ask for help.
Next the transformation process does not need to be difficult. There is no need for complex ritual or liturgy. Whether for Naaman or the lepers it is just a question of hearing God’s word for us and doing it. Of listening to God and reacting.
That does not mean to say that we ignore tradition and what has gone before. Jesus reminds the cleansed lepers that they need to see the priests as prescribed by the law of ancient law of Israel – read it for yourselves in Leviticus 13 and 14. It’s a bit grim so you might want to save it to read until after lunch.
Finally, for the healed there is joy and thanksgiving. In Luke’s story it is the Samaritan Leper who comes back and says thank you – he rejoices – eucharizon in the Greek – the same word as our Eucharist – the celebration of our salvation through union with God in Jesus Christ – a celebration in which we shall shortly share in our communion.
And so his cleansing is moved to a deeper spiritual level because he has fully received his healing – in his heart as well as in his body. The Samaritan allows Christ to transform his view of the world, of how he sees himself in life. Ultimately, to feel the joy of being loved by God in Jesus Christ.
It is interesting and perhaps encouraging that even Jesus only converts one in ten of those whom he heals. That then is the target for us – that we make a lasting impression on one in ten of those who touch this place in the course of a year.
For we know that if we can but plant this mustard seed of faith in the hearts of a few others with that faith they themselves can move mountains.
Because at the heart of both healings is simple faith – of understanding that we all sit under God who loves us.
So what then are the lessons for us?
And what might that transformation look like?
Well let me share a vision that I have had
In my three months here I have seen that this church is formed from many different groups and constituencies, different strands of faith if you will.
If we can agree on a common purpose for our work here then these fibres can be woven together to form a great rope, a hawser that we can use to drag the super-tanker that is the Church of England – to drag it closer to the people whom it serves – to move it faster than it ever believed possible – to turn the talk of decline to rejoicing for growth
How best to do that you must decide but you will see some ideas starting to take shape on the board at the back of church – for me it seems that doing more with the many children of this Parish is very likely to be a part of that vision.
I encourage you to share your ideas either by writing on the lovely multicolour Post-Its or by speaking with me, or Nick or the Church wardens
And my prayer is that, by uniting these many strands into a single great cable, we may in turn draw open the very gates of heaven that through them the people of this Parish may enter into the kingdom of God.
That would be a transforming church indeed. Amen
Sermon preached at St Martin’s, Epsom, by Christopher Hancock, 9th October, 2016
Collect for the Guildford Diocesan Mission Strategy
Transforming Church – Transforming Lives
God of our salvation, you sent your Son to draw all people into your abundant life:
grant that your church, empowered by your Spirit,
may be the instrument of your transforming purposes in the world,
that all may know your power to heal and to save.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
Follow link to view on ‘Curate’s Life’ blog
Sermon for Proper 19C Luke 15:1-10
Personally, I never lose things – ahem. Well not often.
In the weeks prior to my ordination earlier this year, I needed to prove I was a Christian. To do this I needed to produce my baptism certificate – somewhat late in the process I thought but the Church works in mysterious ways. Anyway I was sure that my parents must have it – as I knew I did not.
A lengthy discussion ensued with my mother saying very forcefully that I was baptised on Lady Day, 25th March, 1968 – but she did not have the certificate and so she must have given it to me with other important papers at some time in the past.
However, I could not find it. I turned the house upside down, discovering all sorts of interesting and forgotten documents – ‘O’-Level and ‘A’-Level certificates, Grade 4 bassoon exam. (Result: Merit). Grade 5 bassoon exam (Result: Fail). My cycling proficiency certificate, my Puffin club badge!
I did not remember ever having seen this baptism certificate and I became increasingly suspicious when, after a little research, I found that Lady Day in 1968 was a Monday. Surely I was not Christened on a Monday?
I called the parish where I was baptised and – sure enough – they found the entry in their registers – Sunday 24th March, 1968. A certified copy was duly produced and here I am today.
Parents of Jaime and Wilfred take note – perhaps one day your sons will be called to be ordained – don’t lose the certificate that you will receive later this morning!
Why do I say all of this?
Well – I suppose this draws together several of the kinds of loss which are explored in our Gospel reading this morning
There is the loss of an object – the certificate – and the turmoil which ensued in looking for it
There is also a loss of truth – resulting in a loss of identity – a fact about myself was now wrong (it was not quite Justin Welby finding he was the son of a different father but I felt a small tremor as I had been filling in ecclesiastical forms incorrectly for years)
There is no such thing as a simple parable and like the parable of the prodigal son which follows, the apparently simple parables which we have heard this morning explore the complex questions of what it is to be lost – to lose oneself or to be lost to others.
We can be lost like a sheep because we have strayed we have been in error – made a mistake – as we say in the Prayer Book act of confession ‘we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep’
Or we can be lost like a coin because we have got mislaid, disconnected from where we should be – we have lost our bearings and forgotten who we are – we can get lost in the woods – we can be lost in life – we can get the date of our baptism wrong or we can forget that we have even been baptised at all.
These parables also explore response to loss:
It is dislocating – emotional. We search – turning a house upside down to find a lost coin [or indeed a baptism certificate] or we leave home and livelihood behind in or to go in search for a lost sheep.
I lost a child once – in a department store in America …
This was my first child and I had no experience of toddlers – of their speed of movement and spirit of adventure.
I was in a changing room trying on different pairs of trousers
My young son, William, was with me – in my care. ‘Keep your eye on him!’, my wife had warned me, sternly.
Well no sooner had I removed my trousers when little William crawled under the partition wall to enter the next cubicle – so I quickly put my trousers back on and went to get him – but he wasn’t there!
I left the changing room and instead of William, I found my wife.
‘William is with you?’ I said in a hopeful tone?
I shall never forget the look she gave me.
‘You have lost our son !?!’
So we searched the store high and low – in a state of complete panic – imagine trying to find a runaway 2-year old in a forest of clothes racks
Well I am here today to tell the story so you know that we found him
But I have never forgotten this – because my wife has never let me
In fact, I was in good company – because not only did David and Samantha Cameron leave their child behind in a pub, but Jesus own parents lost him in Jerusalem, on the way back from the Passover (Luke 2)
Where did they find him?
In the temple – in church – in fact he had never left – they had moved on but he had remained constant – there may be lesson for us in this – in particular for those of us who may feel that they have lost Jesus and keep on looking for Jesus in new places – but perhaps he never left the place where we first found him – ‘Did you not know I would be in my Father’s house?’
Some of us know the experience of finding God again after a period of distance, of dislocation, of loss
When you find something you think you have lost it is like receiving something for the first time – like receiving a gift – and the Greek word for joy which is used repeatedly in our Gospel reading – Chara – is from the same root as Charis or gift from which we get Eucharist – that perfect symbol of the gift we have of union with God and with all of God’s creation
A gift we shall receive afresh in a short while this morning
So there is joy in the shepherd in finding and in the sheep in being found
There is joy in finding God and Luke tells us that God also rejoices in finding us
There is a harmony in this reciprocity, a resonance which speaks of the warm feeling we have when we feel that we are known, loved, found, understood.
A feeling I find each time I receive the Eucharist – when we deliberately remember our relationship with all creation, with God and with Christ – as we do this ‘in remembrance of Him’.
So what then might be the messages for us?
We should clearly keep a close eye on those for whom we care – putting them before ourselves and not just before our modesty in changing rooms in foreign countries!
But also to look out for the lost that may be in no-one’s care – those who have strayed themselves or been mislaid, perhaps those who have been left behind by change thinking they must move but needing to be brought back to where they began
We should rejoice too in those who are found – as we rejoice today in Jamie and Wilfred who are about to become the newest Christians in the world
In particular, we should rejoice here in Church
For this may be where we ourselves find God – where we find ourselves and where Christ finds us.
It is so much easier to find God if we are finding Him every week – so much easier to remember where He is. I hope parents and Godparents you will hear this and bring Jamie and Wilfred in time to confirm their relationship with God through Jesus Christ and to join us in sharing this gift.
So, in conclusion, I pray that we will all keep coming here and keep finding Jesus as He promised us: ‘when two or three are gathered together in my name – there I will be in the midst of them.
Sermon delivered by Rev Christopher Hancock, St Martin’s Epsom, 11th September, 2016.
 Luke 2:41-52
 Mat 18:20
It didn’t feel right to use The Word on the Hill to record experiences relevant only to my sojourn in Epsom so I have started a new blog for that – ‘A Curate’s Life’
I shall, however, continue to post links to my sermons here – as this one today
Well, what a week it has been:
– The murder of priest, Jacques Hamel in France
– A murder in quiet Headley of all places, now the crime capital of Surrey
For me it has been a week of spending as much time here at St Martin’s as possible in advance of today – getting to know the Parish and some of its people
And now having to contend with the idiosyncrasies of this extraordinary building and its peculiar acoustic – well here goes …
So what do we think about this passage, the Gospel which we have just heard?
Personally, I think it is a little confusing – it sets you off down false trails
The opening calls to mind the prodigal son with brothers arguing about an inheritance – which suggests that it is a story about relationships – but then Jesus tells a story about a man who builds new barns in which to store a bumper harvest – but calls him a fool – which makes you think it is about the evil vanity of money. (‘Vanity, vanity, all is vanity …’)
Confusingly, the barn-building parable appears to recall the story in Genesis when Joseph advises the building of stores of grain to provide against a famine and wins the respect of Pharaoh – surely a good thing – being prudent- taking the long term view…
But Jesus seems to be encouraging a short-term view – for you may die at any time and, as we know, we cannot take it with you. So you should concentrate not on storing up treasures for yourselves on earth but by being ‘rich towards God’ or even ‘rich in God’
So how to make sense of this?
Luke’s Gospel has an extended metaphor of money as the currency of the kingdom of heaven (think of the parables of the talents or minas as it is in Luke, the shrewd manager who forgives debts, even the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s prayer is equated to the forgiveness of debts).
So can we extend the metaphor from money? How might one make oneself rich in God?
Well as an accountant and corporate financier by day, I feel as though I should be able to provide some insight here.
I know quite a bit from my clients’ experience about what it takes to become wealthy and more importantly to stay wealthy and I think there are indeed some practices and disciplines which one can read across to one’s spiritual life.
First, it is best to approach financial matters with humility and gratitude. Those who realise how much of their wealth is a result of good fortune are likely to remain wealthy far longer than those who ascribe it to their own brilliance.
This fundamental attitude of humility and thanksgiving is the essential first step on the road to holiness – as it is written, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’.
Secondly, having recognised one’s good fortune, the most important thing you can do with money is to keep an eye on it – to regularly review it – to keep accounts (as an accountant I would say that wouldn’t I – but it’s true). This has its analogue in the regular – ideally daily – spiritual practice of self-reflection and criticism which has it paradigm in the Ignatian examen – a daily keeping account of what is Godly and pleasing in one’s life on one hand and on the other what feels ungodly and causes pain. The idea is that by taking note of these things one can look to accentuate the former and eliminate the latter.
Another important thing to do with money is to use your brain and make a study of it – stay up to date with tax and changes in the world, do an MBA or become a chartered accountant (I am beginning to sound like a brochure from the Institute).
For those who would be holy this means studying the Bible – the history in our culture of man’s experience of the divine – perhaps joining a Bible study group and sharing the learning process with others.
Finally, and most importantly in my experience, those who have achieved most are those who have worked together rather than going it alone. The smart entrepreneur is the one who shares the risks and rewards with a team – the largest companies in the world are those owned by many public shareholders not single individuals.
Moreover, those who are truly rich in their lives are those who share their wealth for philanthropic purposes and thereby lead a life which enrichens others.
It is this last point which I think provides the key to the short parable in our reading.
It is not the receipt of the great harvest which makes the rich man a fool – nor even the building of new barns.
It is the failure of the barn-builder to share what he has – to be isolated and selfish in his enjoyment of his good fortune that marks him out for contempt and indeed folly.
‘I will relax, eat, drink and be merry’ he says in a self-satisfied way that reminds me of what we might call the Barbecue Society which is so prevalent amongst the home counties middle class. We can easily fall into being content in our small circle of friends to eat, drink and be merry without engaging in wider society or even with the neighbours beyond the garden fence.
But the reality is as we have seen in Headley and St Etienne de Rouvray and just as John Donne taught us, ‘no man is an island entire of itself’ for we are all involved in mankind – it is our relationships which matter and the true currency of the Kingdom of God is love.
This is what angered Jesus about the brothers wanting him to help them divide their inheritance with which we began. They wanted him to enter a dispute – but Jesus is the opposite of a judge or arbiter who divides. He is a unifer – something which we shall recognise in our Eucharist this morning as we form the body of Christ to remember Jesus. Jesus, who taught us to love one another and to work together. To form relationships and to honour them in his name.
Now if I were to do an examen of my week then without doubt the highlight would not be the time that I have spent in saying the offices of morning and evening prayer here (though I have indeed enjoyed that) – nor even in the couple of pints that I have sampled in Ye Olde King’s Head opposite (though I have indeed enjoyed that).
By far the highlight of my week was the pastoral visit that I paid with Canon Adrian to visit a long-term faithful parishioner, Peggy Hanley, as she approached death in Leyton House nursing home around the corner on Burgh Heath Road.
This once strong and vigorous lady was now very frail and the end was clearly near. After praying with her for a while, giving thanks for her service to this community and saying the words of Commendation, Adrian lent over her bed and kissed her gently on the forehead. In a week which has seen continuing death and division in the world, that seemed to me to be the very epitome of love – and that my friends is what it I believe it means to be rich in God. Amen
Sermon given by Rev Christopher Hancock at St Martin’s Epsom, 31st July, 2016
 Ecclesiastes 1:2
 Genesis 41
 William Tyndale translation
 Luke 19:12-28, Luke 16:1-8; Luke 11:2-4
 In fact it is written twice: Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10
3rd July, 2016
Sermon at Grosvenor Chapel – 12th June, 2016
Readings for Proper 6, Year C
Gospel: Luke 7:36-50
May I speak in the name of the living and loving God whom we know as + Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen
Well, what a pleasure it is to be here on a Sunday
To put myself in context – I am a weekday Parishioner
I work at 29 Farm Street and I normally only ever come here Monday to Friday – I try to get to as many as possible of the Masses which Fr Richard faithfully holds for a few of us at lunchtime.
I am also an Ordinand in the Diocese of Guildford – God willing, I will be ordained Deacon on 3rd July and will begin my curacy as an ordained local minister in the Parish of St Martin’s Epsom
As such I commute here and I usually walk from Victoria Station, across Green Park and through Shepherd’s Market to get here.
Shepherd’s Market has changed somewhat in the 25 years that have been working in London. It is rather smarter and less edgy.
Juice bars and fashion outlets have replaced the rather more bohemian art dealers and gone are the days when you would often see a woman in a dressing gown hanging out of a doorway with a cigarette in her mouth who looked at you in a very particular way.
All of which serves as a rambling and perhaps rather obvious introduction to a discussion of this remarkable story in the Gospel of Luke, for we assume that this woman of the city, ‘who is a sinner’, is a prostitute.
It is interesting that women who are ‘sinners’ are usually assumed to be misbehaving in the area of sex. Whether adultery or prostitution. Tempting men to sin by their feminine wiles is a story as old as Adam and Eve. Perhaps the Old Testament reading with the story of David and Bathsheba serves to remind us that in these matters men are at least 50% and perhaps more of the problem.
The last module in my training course is in Pastoral Care and the first thing that we are taught in Pastoral care is to be aware of our prejudices and predispositions.
We have to understand those prejudices in order to avoid making assumptions about others.
This story raises the issue of such assumptions – the woman is known in the city to be a sinner. But who really knows that someone is a sinner? If she is a prostitute then the only people who know that for sure are her clients – perhaps Simon the Pharisee is one of them?
In any case Jesus avoids the temptation to prejudge and whatever she may have been or done, he asks us to see her as she is today.
The next teaching for a pastoral encounter is to be alive for unusual behaviour and try to make sense of it – the woman’s treatment of Jesus is unusual in any circumstances – it is hyperbolic.
What husband has received such treatment ? With his feet washed with tears, dried with the woman’s hair and anointed with perfume?
This goes some way beyond the famous injunction to young wives from the 1950s to prepare for the homecoming of their husband
Prepare yourself: Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking.. Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes.
This woman leaves the good wife of Housekeeping Monthly firmly in the shade – let alone the normal way to treat a dinner party guest.
So why might she be acting in this way?
Attachment theory would encourage us to understand her behaviour in terms of how the woman normally forms relationships.
If indeed she is a prostitute, then she is used to giving of herself physically in exchange for money – a form of transaction.
For her, love has a value. She shows her gratitude with the love that she values.
This putting of a value on love and forgiveness fits within the framework not just of this reading – where 500 denarii of forgiveness are compared with 50 – but indeed the whole of Luke’s Gospel where sins are equated with owing money, the forgiveness of sins compared to a forgiveness of debts and greater gratitude with greater forgiveness and greater value – think for example of the story of the story prodigal son.
The manner of her showing this gratitude would seem to lie at the hidden heart of this encounter. Her solicitude is very intimate – even erotic.
As such this would certainly seem to stretch the limits of what would be considered best practice in pastoral care where there is an ever increasing focus on delineating and observing boundaries – both physical boundaries and those of time.
Notice how she comes to Jesus at dinner – interrupting his personal time – perhaps this was Jesus’s ‘day off’. If so he ignores it.
Instead Christ allows a high degree of intimacy and so gives scope to the woman’s ministry.
I am about to become a Deacon – one who serves – and she serves just as Christ will later describe himself as ‘one who serves’ (Luke 22:27) using the same metaphor of waiting at table.
In order to serve others then we have to be given scope to do so – and Christ allows the woman this service.
I recently made a formal confession ahead of my ordination and in that explored some of my besetting sins. What my confessor explained to me is that our sins are often found close to our talents and strengths – it is when these are misdirected or followed slavishly that they cause us ill.
By way of a topical example, on the occasion of the Queen’s 90th birthday, we are mindful of her unstinting service to God and country and the honouring of tradition.
However, we also remember that the low point in her reign came when, for a while, she allowed tradition to stand in the way of a natural act of respect in allowing a flag to fly at half-mast following the death of Diana Princess of Wales. She recovered and for that act of humility and a relaxation of her boundaries won back the love of the nation.
Our story in Luke seems to perfectly illustrate this point – this woman appears to be someone with a talent for showing physical love – she is self-actualised in the bestowing of kisses and anointing with perfume.
Christ provides the scope for her to show that love – not in a back alley, a brothel or between adulterous sheets, but rather in a public act of love and worship. It is in turning to Christ and showering her love upon Him that she is saved.
There are lessons then for us in this Gospel.
Christ offers us the perfect model of pastoral care – receiving without prejudice, allowing an intimate encounter within boundaries which may be stretched beyond convention but not beyond morality, and then sending out to serve Christ, released with love. – ‘Your faith has saved you’ he says, ‘go in peace.’
In turn, the woman offers us the perfect model of the recipient of Christ’s redeeming love – acknowledging our weaknesses, turning our talents from self-gratification to offer them to Christ in love such that, in the words of Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
So may it be for us
Grosvenor Chapel, 12th June, 2016
 The Good Wife’s Guide, from Housekeeping Monthly (May 1955)
 The causality in Lk 7:47 is the subject of scholarly disagreement and is perhaps deliberately vague