On Sunday 5th July, I had the privilege of joining Adam, a member of St Nick’s Maker’s Club, on his sponsored cycle ride to raise money for my nephew Liam. For those who may not have heard, Liam was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in May and has been undergoing chemotherapy to try to eradicate the secondary tumours in his bones and in preparation for surgery to remove the primary cancer on the adrenal gland above his kidney. As Liam’s family live in America they will be faced with a substantial bill for the 18 months of treatment that is currently planned. Hearing this news in the church notices several weeks ago, Adam took it upon himself to organise and complete a 90-minute sponsored cycle ride in a local park to raise money for Liam’s family.
I was so impressed by this show of compassion and commitment by someone of primary-school-age that I thought the least I could do was tag along as Adam’s ‘domestique’: a French term used in cycle racing to describe a rider who works for the benefit of his team leader. One of the roles of a domestique is to sacrifice his bike to the leader should they develop a mechanical problem at a crucial point in the race and I feared this would be the case when Adam turned up on a bike with neither front nor rear working brakes! He explained that he had wanted to get them fixed before the event but the bike shop couldn’t do the repairs in time. Instead he had developed his own stopping technique that required him to push his footwear down on his front wheel while still in motion and having witnessed this for myself I had to admit that he had quite the knack (and worn trainers) for it. Nevertheless, we thought it wise to enlist the help of our new Curate, Alan (officially inducted into post only that day), to bless the bike, giving Alan a crucial, though just too late, insight of what kind of church he had gotten himself involved with.
I’m happy to report that the blessing had the desired effect and the actual ride was much less eventful than the prologue. In glorious summer sunshine Adam completed the 90-minute cycle, covering a total distance of 11.46 miles and, most incredibly of all, having zero crashes.
So far Adam has raised £377, which is an extraordinary amount, but even more extraordinary is the way Liam’s illness is touching lives around the world and people like Adam are responding with selfless love and solidarity. As Jesus said, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).
I hope that when any of us look back on our lives we have some strong highlights in our ‘show reels’. For many people I suspect their personal show reel will include wedding days, the birth of children and the various anniversaries that mark out a life. Like most people I’ve experienced my fair share of ups and downs. One definite highlight was being ordained ‘deacon’ in 2005. It was a sweltering day and the culmination of years of ordination formation and training. Manchester Cathedral was abuzz with people and, in truth, it all went by in a bit of a blur. Nonetheless, as I recall it, it was a great day that brought together family and friends for a day of rejoicing.
I mention this because by the time you read this, our new Curate Alan Simpson will have been ordained deacon. I am delighted that he’s going to be with us over the coming years and I trust you’ll all welcome him to our fellowship. He, along with Sally, will bring new eyes and insights into how we can grow as a community of service and love. Some of you may be wondering what the difference between a ‘deacon’ and a ‘priest’ is. Well, I’ll leave Alan to give you the details! The important thing to remember is that in June 2016 Alan – supported by a fair few representatives from St Nick’s – will be heading back to the Cathedral for his ordination as a priest. Being a deacon is not just a temporary thing however. I am – for example – both a deacon and priest. The deacon’s ministry is very much focused on service and pastoral care. It is liturgical too, emphasizing welcome and peacemaking. At theological college we used to joke that every time one of us tidied away the chair we were getting in touch with our diaconal ministry!
Ultimately I hope that we at St Nick’s can offer a place of grace where Alan can feel welcomed and be the minister God is calling him to be. Over the next few years he will need to find the shape
of his ministry. In some ways that will be shaped by the nature of church – for example, after he’s been ordained priest, he’ll preside at the Eucharistic table and officiate in all of the things that make the church ‘the church’. But within that wider calling he will have his own gifts and interests. Alan won’t be here to be my ‘mini-me’. He will be here to be Alan Simpson.
One of the things I really hope for over the coming years is the ongoing growth in the ministry of all God’s people in this church. People have stepped forward into all sorts of roles and I hope this process continues. Sally and Alan can inspire us to step forward and say, ‘why not me?’ when it comes to the various liturgical and church roles in the church. Please don’t be shy in offering yourself in service to God. God will be with you. You might be delightfully surprised by where it leads!
Download the July 2015 edition of the church magazine