We extend a warm welcome to Archdeacon Fiona as she visits the parish and preaches at St Nicholas’ Patronal Festival this morning. This afternoon she will take her place in Chichester Cathedral, our mother church, as Bishop Martin blesses a specially designated door to herald the Year of Mercy he has declared for the Diocese. Pope Francis, whose call Bishop Martin is supporting, describes such a door as “a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope”. It is a welcoming door through which all in need may enter, but also a door from which the Church must go out to proclaim mercy to all.
As our Alpha Course concluded this week I was struck by how much it had anticipated (and modelled) some of the key principles both of the Year of Mercy and how we can be “church”: the open welcome, the fellowship (and thanks again to Higgidy Pies for another wonderful meal on Tuesday!), the learning through clear teaching and free discussion, the building of a common purpose respectful of individual needs and journeys and the going out challenged yet resourced. The final evening spoke powerfully as in the talk and discussion we considered what the church could be and, quite naturally, put it into practice in the support of two of our members – one who received (during the talk) news of the death of a family member and one who was then in hospital and died shortly afterwards. It is that bond, within the church family and with all God’s children, that was modelled by St Nicholas. His is an example of a life infused with pastoral care, teaching and worship that continues to proclaim the gospel in our own day and challenges us to do likewise.