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Candlemas: a midway point

by the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy

candlesforweb

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy

Candlemas is a wonderful festival, dating back as far as the fifth century. It was a feast for blessing the candles of church, as well as commemorating the encounter of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with Simeon and Anna. It is the last childhood ‘snapshot’ we have of Jesus. The next time we meet him in the gospels, he is in the Temple once more – but as an adolescent, confounding teachers and scribes. We won’t see him again in the Temple until adulthood.
Candlemas is a ‘pivotal feast’ – one last look over the shoulder at Christmas before the serious season of Lent. On 2 February, Christmas is officially over. In our house the crib sets are put away for another year; the baby Jesus is wrapped up and stored away; the Wise Men and their exotic beasts of burden put into hibernation; the shepherds placed in boxes, and tucked away.

According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus is brought to the temple to be consecrated, as a first born male as custom demands. But as with all consecrations, the blessings are shared out. Simeon and Anna are blessed as much as those they came to bless. And strangely, it is here, in the temple, that Jesus begins his ministry. For here he is truly recognised as a light for both Israel and the world. The road to Calvary begins here: it prophesies ‘the falling and rising of many…and a sword shall pierce your own heart’. That’s why Candlemas matters. It is a midway point: past Christmas, it tilts us towards Lent, Holy Week – and eventually, Easter.
As an adult, Jesus spent little time in religious buildings. Like many children, he was taken there by his parents, with little choice in the matter. But when he was old enough to make up his own mind, he hardly ever went. Yet Jesus never turned his back on religion; he simply turned his face to the world.

The gospels assure us that the light shines in the darkness of this world – and for everyone. This light is not hidden under a bushel. It is set on a hill – even the hill of Calvary. God can never be entirely contained by our walls – whether physical, tribal or religious. At Candlemas, Simeon and Anna find the light of God inside the Temple. But many more will later discover the light of Jesus in his ministry outside that Temple – in the meadows, towns and villages of Galilee; and in the streets and houses of Jerusalem. The light shines in the darkness – for all to see.

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy is the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.

Double book launch in Oxford

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A DOUBLE book launch takes place at the Blackwells book store in Oxford in November. journey FC3Labyrinth Prayer Handbook

The Journey, by Bishop John and published by SPCK and A Labyrinth Prayer Handbook by Sally Welch, will both be launched at Blackwells Bookshop on Friday 7 November.

The Journey follows Luke’s chronology from Luke 9.51, as Jesus ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’. It offers daily weekday readings for Lent taking the reader to Jerusalem in the company of Jesus. Life in his company is not for the faint-hearted. Certainly there’s fun, as you lark about with the other young disciples. But it’s pretty edgy too, not knowing who is going to turn up next. And as the days pass by, the huge demands on Jesus as he heals and teaches invoke both a strange tenderness, and a growing dread of why exactly you are journeying to the holy city.

A Labyrinth Prayer Handbook follows on from Sally’s introductory Walking the Labyrinth. It provides ideas for using labyrinths in different settings, with children, those with learning difficulties, the elderly, in hospices, during retreats and during different seasons.

The Very Revd Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, will be speaking at the book launch, at Blackwells on Broad Street, from 7pm. For tickets, which cost £3 call Blackwells on 01865 333623.

New Dean installed at Christ Church.

THE new Dean of Christ Church the Revd Canon Martyn Percy was installed in a special Evensong service on Saturday 4 October 2014. Read more about Martyn here. 

The Revd Canon Martyn Percy is installed as Dean of Christ Church.

The Revd Canon Martyn Percy is installed as Dean of Christ Church.

Revd Canon Professor Martyn Percy to be the new Dean of Christ Church

The Queen has approved that the Reverend Canon Professor Martyn William Percy, BA (Hons), MEd, PhD, Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, be appointed Dean of Christ Church, Oxford in succession to the Very Reverend Christopher Andrew Lewis BA, PhD, on his resignation.Martyn Percy cropped

Professor Martyn Percy was educated at Bristol University, Sheffield University and at King’s College, London. He trained for the ordained ministry at Durham University. Since 2004, he has been the Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon. The College also incorporates the Oxford Ministry Course, the West of England Ministerial Training Course, and the Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology (a research and consultancy centre).

Professor Percy is a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London and Visiting Professor of Theological Education at King’s College, London. He is an Honorary Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, and a former Canon Theologian at Sheffield Cathedral. He has served as Curate at St. Andrew’s Bedford, and then as Chaplain and Director of Theology and Religious Studies at Christ’s College, Cambridge. From 1997 to 2004 he was the Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society.

Martyn has served as a Director and Council member of the Advertising Standards Authority, and as a member of the Independent Complaints Panel for the Portman Group (the self-regulating body for the alcoholic drinks industry). He is currently a Commissioner of the Direct Marketing Authority as well as an Advisor to the British Board of Film Classification. Since 2003 he has co-ordinated the Society for the Study of Anglicanism at the American Academy of Religion. He writes on Christianity and contemporary culture and modern ecclesiology. His recent books include Anglicanism: Confidence, Commitment and Communion (2013) and Thirty-Nine New Articles: An Anglican Landscape of Faith (2013). Professor Percy is 51, and married to the theologian the Revd. Dr. Emma Percy, who is Chaplain and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. They have 2 sons.

Rejoicing as the Revd Dr Helen-Ann Macleod Hartley is consecrated as Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki

Helen-Ann trained for ordination on the Oxford Ministry Course at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and was ordained in 2007, writes Martyn Percy.  She served her curacies at Wheatley, near Oxford, and then Littlemore, Oxford alongside teaching New Testament at Cuddesdon.  In 2011 Helen-Ann was appointed as Dean of Tikanga Pakeha (caring for and overseeing the European students) at St. John’s College, Auckland, New Zealand.  The College has three Tikanga (which are in effect, ‘formational communities/cultures’), the other two covering Polynesia and Maori.

Helen-Ann Hartley with Martyn Percy.

Helen-Ann Hartley with Martyn Percy.

In the summer of 2013 it was announced that Helen-Ann had been elected as the 7th Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki.  This is a unique diocese in the Anglican Communion, as it has two bishops who serve as co-equals, sharing jurisdiction and in the pastoral care of the diocese.  The present Archbishop is Philip Richardson (Tikanga Pakeha), who has his cathedral in Taranaki.  The consecration was a wonderful service, with hundreds attending from across the diocese, and also the wider Communion.  The Maori Archbishop (Brown Turei) and Tikanga Pasefika Archbishop, Winston Halapua, shared in the consecration of Helen-Ann, along with Bishop Victoria Matthews and others.  Myles Hartley played the organ for the service, which gave the service a special ‘family feel’.

It was wonderful to have two former Cuddesdon ordinands present – Colin Datchler, now a Vicar in Wellington, NZ; and Nick Brown, Vicar of Louth in Lincolnshire.  In fact, it felt like something of a Cuddesdon Day.  Bishop Stephen Pickard (Professorial Research Fellow at Cuddesdon from 2011-12) preached the sermon.  And the Very Revd Peter Rickman (Dean of Waikato Cathedral) and the Very Revd Jamie Allen (Dean of Taranaki Cathedral) both trained at Cuddesdon.

With Helen-Ann’s consecration, an important and timely new chapter in church history has been written.  Helen-Ann is the first English woman to be trained in the Church of England to become an Anglican bishop.  That this happened in 2014 is also significant.  Seventy years ago, in 1944, Bishop R O Hall ordained the first woman to the priesthood – a daring and prophetic move in the dark days of the Second World War.

Hall was the Anglican Bishop of Hong Kong, and in 1944 made proper provision for the pastoral and priestly oversight of refugees in Macau.  Hall ordained Li Tim Oi, who then ministered to refugees in Macau, which as a neutral Portuguese colony, had not been overrun by the Japanese during the Second World War.  Hall had trained at Cuddesdon at the end of the First World War.

So, 70 years on from Bishop Hall ordaining Li Tim Oi, we rejoice with the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki in their appointment of Helen-Ann as their seventh bishop.  And we pray for Helen-Ann too – that she may have the strength, wisdom and vision needed for this new work.