On 4th to 6th May, 40 members of our congregation spent half their bank holiday weekend at the Southwark Diocesan conference centre in the rolling Surrey countryside for the parish conference.
We provide (see menu at the left) a diary which outlines the high points of the conference, and summaries of each of the topics discussed, but first, an extract from Chris Moody's introduction to the conference which went further than anything else to define the central purpose.
What is special about St Alfege?
One of the most special things about St Alfege church is that we’re actually founded on the place where St Alfege was martyred. And although this may not have much cachet in terms of general culture (because who is St Alfege? He is a very minor Saint, only remembered in the Canterbury diocese). But actually when you look at his story on more detail you see that there is a lot there which is important.
Places which still have that sort of association with a Saint still carry a continuous gift – a Charism – from the memory of that Saint. I think that is something which is special about St Alfege.
And there were two poles to the life of St Alfege. One was holiness and prayer because he was a Benedictine monk, so he was someone who knew the importance of prayer, the importance of creating space, sanctuary. And that is something that is constantly being squeezed out in contemporary life. Someone who knew that our vocation as Christians is not always to get more and more busy, but to create that space for other people as well as ourselves by welcome and hospitality.
So that was one pole of his life, which he has handed on to us. Where we create space is not confined to our building; it is a part of our fellowship together and it includes our community links as well. So when I am taking assembly in school, the fact that we can create that space with the children in assembly is part of what we feel is special about our belonging together as a church and a church school. So that pole which I might call holiness, or creating space for God so that life can be more whole, I think, is something that we should justifiably honour.
But of course the other thing which is important about ST Alfege is this: there was some discussion about whether he should be canonised or not because there was the argument that he did not die directly for his faith. He was actually martyred because he wouldn’t allow a ransom to be paid for his life. And St Anselm said, in those words that are inscribed on the tablet in church, “He who dies for justice dies for Christ”.
And so justice is the other side of the charism that St Alfege hands on to our church. Justice in terms of restoring to people what they have lost – making sacrifices so that other people may grow – and valuing each member the same. That’s very much what we are about and I hope this will inform all the discussions that we have on the various topics.