The Venerable Stephen Rowe, the Reverend Len Dyer and the parish of Church of the Epiphany, Surrey greeted Bishop Michael Ingham. The Bishop was presiding and preaching at the main 10:30am Sunday celebration of our Lord’s Supper, October 17th, 2010, commemorating forty years of Eucharistic ministry in that church at that location.
The worship began with the Bishop leading the people in prayers of thanksgiving outside in the courtyard garden. Following the prayers, the community processed through the west side of the church building out into the parking lot and around the corner onto the neighbourhood street singing Bishop Gord Light’s hymn, More Than We Can Ask or Imagine.
Upon arrival in the sanctuary, Bishop Michael welcomed the community and proceeded to bless the Font and the lectern, giving thanks to God for the gift of water and for the eternal Words of Holy Scripture.
Bishop Michael gathered the children of the parish and spoke to them about miracles. He explained that a miracle is when God does something “unexpected” and he asked them if they knew of the miracle that happened earlier that week, referring to the rescue of the Chilean miners.
In order for the youngsters to comprehend the miner’s plight Bishop Michael explained that they were trapped in a place that is as deep in the ground as the distance from the Church of the Epiphany to the Guildford Mall. In the months that they were trapped, people all over the world prayed for their safety and they were delivered.
Bishop Michael also told the youngsters gathered at the chancel stairs that much earlier that day at the Vatican in Rome Pope Benedict presided over the canonization of a Canadian, Brother Andre Bessette who has received credit for curing hundreds of ailing people. At St. Joseph’s Oratory church in Montreal there are hundreds of crutches cast aside due to the healing power of prayers offered to God through Brother Andre. The Bishop asked the children to keep their Faith in God as miracles happen everyday.
Bishop Michael chose for his text the Gospel of the day, Luke 18 v1-8. He began by pointing out that there are two New Testament stories about widows; The Widow’s Mite and the Gospel story we heard that morning often referred to as The Widow and the Unjust Judge. In this parable a widow desires to plead her case in front of a judge. We aren’t told what the issue is but she is eager for redress. The judge refuses to see her, for him any complaint that she may have is not important enough for him to bother about. However, she refuses to take “no” for an answer and keeps going back, eventually wearing the judge down and he hears her case and “grants her justice.”
Jesus’ message is to keep on praying, as prayer is a discipline that must be practiced, not a quick fix. Bishop Michael took the congregation deeper into the text and offered another perspective. For this parable can be read as more than being about persistence, it is also about poor women in society and their relationship to men of power. In Jesus’ time a widowed or divorced woman without family was destined to live in poverty and relegated to arduous labour or a life of prostitution. Bishop Michael pointed out that “things have not changed significantly.” In Canada today one out of four women can expect to be a victim of sexual abuse and more often than not the abusers are family members. Women abused by family members make up the single largest group of sex-trade workers. Here in 2010 there are still those who argue that God has given women a secondary responsibility.
Bishop Michael pointed out that in the Church of England during the week that just passed,a substantial group of Christians are very concerned about the future of the church if women are given the opportunity to be ordained as bishops. There exists a movement of men in society and in our church that continues to subjugate women. They turn to Jesus as a source to give credence to their beliefs but the Jesus who told the story of the widow and the judge would not have tolerated the exclusion and subjugation of women.
Bishop Michael began the conclusion of his address with this quote from British author, Dorothy Sayers “women were first at the cradle and last at the cross” and he voiced his hope that the church can grow to be a place of mutual dignity and respect for women and men.
Following the dismissal, the congregation and clergy gathered in the chancel for a parish photograph and then it was off to the “hall” for a celebratory lunch that featured a delicious homemade cake. The cake was a carefully constructed model of the church and the church grounds baked and crafted by Anne Savenye. Happy 40th Anniversary to the Church of the Epiphany, Surrey, may your Community of Faith continue to share God’s blessings with your neighbourhood and with each other.

Images: top: Bishop Michael and the clergy process through the neigbourhood, right: the procession approaches the church, bottom left: the community prepares for the Parish Photo, bottom, THE CAKE!