Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Gospel of Sport

What has faith got to do with football? Is sport part of God's plan or a distraction from things that are really important? What does Christianity have to say about competition and the culture of celebrity sports stars?

We are delighted to welcome Revd Dr Lincoln Harvey, lecturer at St Mellitus College, author of A Brief Theology of Sport, and avid Arsenal fan (don't hold it against him), as our guest preacher at the 11am service on Sunday 27 April. Sports kit optional.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sermon for Good Friday

This sermon was preached at St Mary's on Good Friday 2014, by Simon Harvey, one hundred years after the start of the Great War. 

At the start of the service, the congregation was invited to step across a barbed wire line, which was made possible by laying  upon it a large wooden cross.

They killed Jesus.
The mob, who bayed for his death and shouted “Crucify him!” until their throats were hoarse.

They killed Jesus.
The religious elite, who hid tight-clenched fists in folds of fine robes and insisted on death for heresy.

They killed Jesus.
The empire-men, those rulers whose calculation and cowardice judged his death more expedient than any other option.

All of them killed Jesus.

But the nail and hammer work was left to soldiers. Which is what usually happens.

A dirty job, from top to bottom.

High politics and high religion, through a chain of delegation, order and command to turn cruel words into action.

So cheap wood, cheap nails, flesh and bone become the front line.

Soldiers did what soldiers do. Get on with the job. No mucking about. Making it quick makes it easy. Let others think, just do.

And did his eyes meet theirs? Him and them. All of them at their their assigned labour...
...him dying for the world, on our behalf?
...them executing for their commanding officer, for their ruler, for the priest, also on our behalf?

Barbed wire and crosses and nails. Cheap means of death. Industrial and mass-produced. Slow and economical.


Four hundred miles of trenches, garlanded with millions of miles of barbed wire, separated the boys of the Great War. Made cheap in factories that also made fortunes. The best example of technological warfare one hundred years ago wasn’t the tanks and gas shells and clever flying machines. It was barbed wire.
For a century now, those trenches have become metaphors of division and separation between enemies. Us and them. Our side, their side. Barbed wire is thin and bare but as effective at separation as any thick wall.

Or dividing curtain.

Like every partition, it was conceived for defence. And isn’t every wall so conceived?

Keeping others out, keeping me and mine safe.

But what happens to those who live behind their defences? Those whose homes have high walls and locks and alarms. Installing security measures is often the reasonable first move in the process that turns defence to suspicion to paranoia. Once the barrier is built, we grow more afraid.

Our fences make us free only in one way - free to think with dread imagination about those we hate on the other side. By our security measures, we imprison ourselves. And once you choose to keep a door locked, you’ll probably never think of keeping it unlocked again.


We did it with God.

Long ago we decided his wild love was too much. We pretended it was otherwise but we couldn’t handle all of  him in all our lives. Better to confine him and his kingdom-calling to parts of our lives - the high moments when we’re at our most charitable or the occasional Sunday morning. We feared (rightly) that he wanted all of us.

So we partitioned God off, which is all that sin really is. And in our sad delusion, we felt ourselves safer. We lived barely aware of God. We lived our own lives, defended, curtailed. We cleverly made ourselves safe by making our idea of God safe. As if you could tame God.

When Jesus died, says the apostle Paul in the letter to the Colossians, God did something decisive in our stalemated relationship with him. The waywardness of us, that estranged us from him, needed something. Then came Jesus, in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”

Temple-curtain tears. Earth shakes.

The reconciliation with God that we both feared and longed-for was won for us, done for us. Our man-made defences divinely dismantled.

Jesus did not declare cease-fire. He declared “It is finished!”

God come-among-us and dying the death we fear, so that we might live the life we were made to live.

And if in this Good Friday at his dying hour, we stand in no-man’s-land, shaking with fear, tempted to take cover, can we trust that it will soon be over? That one day… or three day’s time… the world will look different?

Easter Sunday 2014

After the sorrow of Good Friday...
after the silence of Holy Saturday...
we celebrate Easter morning with great joy, thankfulness and, of course, an Easter egg hunt!
Come to our Easter Sunday Family Communion at 11am, where the children will make Easter gardens and we'll hear the story of Jesus' rising from death to life. No matter who you are, no matter what you've done: everyone is invited into new life in the risen Christ.
Happy Easter Islington!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Services for Holy Week and Easter 2014

Join us to walk the way of the Cross and to celebrate the triumph of resurrection.

All services take place in church, unless stated otherwise.

17 April 2014
Maundy Thursday
7.30-8.30pm Holy Communion

18 April 2014
Good Friday
12pm United act of witness at N1 Centre, Angel
12.15pm Procession behind the cross, along Upper Street to St Mary's
12.30pm United service
1-3pm Meditations every thirty minutes

20 April 2014
Easter Sunday
11.00 Celebration Holy Communion
6pm Evening Service

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Good Friday procession 2014

Hundreds of people will gather at the N1 Centre at noon on Good Friday, 18 April 2014. Churches from across south Islington are working together to walk in solidarity with each other, and with a figure of Jesus, in the way of the cross.

The simple gathering will be followed by a joint service at St Mary's, Upper Street, from 12:30 to 1.00pm. People may then choose to remain for the Good Friday Meditations until 3pm.

Follow the event on twitter #upperstreetpassion.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Beginning Theology Open Day

We're glad to publicise the Beginning Theology Open Day at St Mellitus College on 10 May 2014. A member of our church attended last year and found it very encouraging and inspiring.

The day will be held at St Jude’s Church, 24 Collingham Road, London, SW5 0LX. The Open Day will start at 10.30am and will finish at 1pm.

  • The open day is an opportunity to:
  • Talk to tutors and other academic staff
  • Learn more about the course
  • Meet other potential students
  • See our worship space, teaching areas and library
  • Attend a taster session of the Beginning Theology teaching

The course is for you if:

  • You have never studied theology before
  • You have studied theology, but not in English
  • You just want to learn to think and talk about God
  • You would like to prepare for study in Higher Education

 More details at the St Mellitus website.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Big Silence 2014

Our annual retreat - the Big Silence - is the weekend after Easter. We'll be returning to the Domus Mariae convent for rest, refreshment, quiet prayer and peace. To join us, please email Alexandra Lilley.

Comments from last year:
"I loved every second of the weekend! The silence is so rewarding and amazing. I look forward to it every year it: a time when I can communicate with God on another level."

"Coming back to busy, noisy Islington after a reflective break like this reinforces how much it is needed, and how difficult it is to carve out a space for silence in our everyday life."

"I count the weekend as one of my blessings for the year."

"I really enjoyed the weekend and not only do I  have very good memories but I achieved my goal to slow down a bit."

"The experience is indescribable. I wish more of us could appreciate this unique experience. I look forward to the silence weekend in 2014 already.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

St Mary's Youth Weekend away 2014

Tim Broadbent, our Youth and Children's Minister, and a team of volunteer leaders are taking the St Mary's youth group away to Carroty Wood activity centre in Tonbridge, Kent on 11-13 April. The young people will get to play football, climb trees, go swimming, ride BMX's and toast marshmallows around a campfire. 

There will also be opportunity to get to know each other better and learn more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Please pray for safety, dry weather and that everyone has a great experience.