Monday, February 05, 2007

Thanksgiving for a Life

A sermon preached at a Thanksgiving Service for the Late Fr Bill Bennetts at the Interment of his ashes

As a Rector or Parish priest
you are used to living with ghosts.
Chief amongst these ghosts
are the spectres of your predecessors.

There are a couple of predecessors
who lurk in this parish
and one of them is bill bennetts.

This is partly because when I was a student at St Barnabas’s College
which was then not far away
Bill was the rector of this parish
and we saw it as a parish in full flight
with a priest at the heart of it who was an enthusiastic dynamo of a person
Indeed I remember one of my colleagues
saying to me
“That Fr Bennetts down at Blackwood
preaches like a machine gun!”

It is an image that has ever stuck with me.

It is not the violence that a machine gun might strike into the hearts of people
but rather the high powered
unremitting delivery of the goods
that hit the target.

So I have found that in the more than ten years
that I have been in this parish
the remembrance of his ministry
has come round periodically
and he has been remembered with thankfulness

That is not to say that there were not those
who found his ministry difficult.
He was a key promoter of the charismatic movement
while this enlivened the faith of many there were some who found it deeply alienating
and who even left the parish.
There were some who didn't like the way music was changing, or the services of the church were changing
and who stopped coming to church.

It was ever so. If I gave it more than 30 seconds thought there have been equivalent difficulties during my time.
It was indeed, ever so!

What is more interesting is not those who didn’t fancy Bill
but those who found in him
something admirable, something challenging
something spiritual.

They did this, I believe, because they saw in him a man who responded as Joshua challenged God’s people……
Revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness
he was patently a man of prayer, faith and genuine love of God.
He was like the servant who took his responsibility seriously and who struggled to work with the little resources that he had.
The Master when he returned said
Well done, good and faithful servant
He threw himself into his ministry here
because he saw the challenge of God’s ministry for his parishes
He could perhaps have been a little kinder to his family
in determining his priorities
it is a temptation for all clergy
one that is not so much forgivable as understandable
As we each give thanks for his ministry
so we remember his family in their grief
Betty, Elizabeth and Stephen
we remember Bill and also Jo and commend them to God.

We pray that we may learn from their example
to revere and serve the Lord, and the Lord only
To care for those whom the Lord has given us
and to ten that part of the vineyard
however modest
that has been committed to our care.

So we pray that we may all know God’s love and mercy
in this world and in eternity.

Thanks be to God

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