Poussin, The Seven Sacraments II: Confirmation, 1645

Why I am being Confirmed

Confirmation is the act in which a Bishop confirms the faith of a Christian and thereby affirms that they can fully participate in the life of the worldwide church. In this service the Bishop lays hands on the one being confirmed and prays for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on them. By making public vows to a Bishop (who is a figure of the unity of the worldwide church) and that Bishop accepting my profession of faith, any church in communion with that Bishop would have to honour my profession of faith, receiving me as a fully equal participant in worship, ministry and mission.

It is variously seen as a sacrament (an outward sign of an inward grace); a rite of passage; a false ordinance; divisive; unnecessary; or unimportant depending on the church background of those asked. In fact the movement of Christians who have shaped my faith, the Baptists, explicitly reject confirmation and call it a false sacrament. The church who have called me to ministry do not have a formal relationship with any overarching organisation of church unity. Theologically, I agree that the Church is constituted of the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and no external sign or rite can create disciples, only the illuminating and new-life-giving unction of the Holy Spirit can create a Christian.

So why am I being confirmed?

Because I want to express that I am a part of one universal (catholic) church

Bishops, whether one believes in their scriptural validity or not, are the closest thing to a figure of unity in the Christian church. Is IS possible that there could be some other office of unity (such as a Presbytery or Session or Synod) but the whole church for the whole of its life has more or less agreed that a Bishop is a successor to the Apostles and thus has a role of unifying the people of God around the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just as the fist Apostles. Whether real or symbolic, the Bishop is a figure standing for the Apostolic teaching which has the power to save both me and you (this teaching being the news that Jesus died for sinners and was raised to life). By being received and affirmed by a Bishop, I get to express my commitment to belonging to a people who are in all times and places distinct from all other peoples.

I belong to the church by faith and not by birth or background. Confirmation gives expression to this reality, which is why it is an outward sign of an inward grace. The inward grace is my desire to submit to the discipline and doctrine of the church, the outward sign of which is being prayed for by a Bishop.

Because I want to have a place to call home

To submit to the discipline of a real earthly organisation called church is a scary idea. It is far more tempting to lean on my Baptism and claim that I belong to Jesus all by myself and I don’t need to really show up to public worship in the church or submit my life’s decisions to the judgement of the church. To be clear, Baptism is the sign that I have been born anew into Christ and thus belong to him eternally. Confirmation is perhaps more concerned with the earthly discipline which follows this decision.

By being confirmed I am communicating my intention to allow the people of God to speak into my life and that they can call me to account for failing to live up to the faith I have professed. In this way, I find my earthly home among the faithful people of Jesus. A place to be known, a place to grow to maturity.

Because God has something to give me

If Bishops are sacramental representatives or successors of the Apostles, then I suppose their prayers come from a unique authority reserved for those original Apostles. In the Acts of the Apostles, those called to that office go around praying for hose who have believed and the Holy Spirit is poured out (Acts 8:17, Acts 19:6). Ultimately, I am choosing to be confirmed because I believe that God has something unique to give me, as he was uniquely revealed to the people of God by the Apostle’s laying on of hands.

Please pray for me this week as I prepare, or better yet come and show your support!

4pm on November 22nd
St Benedict’s Church
Bennetts End, Hemel Hempstead


Grant, Almighty God, that we, who have been redeemed from the old life of sin by our baptism into the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, may be renewed in your Holy Spirit, and live in righteousness and true holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-Collect for Confirmation, BCP 1979


Ember Days: Pray for those who minister and serve the Church

**As a brief aside, for some reason Anglican tradition in the USA remember these Ember Days in the week after Holy Cross Day (September 14th) whereas in the UK they are acknowledged a week later.

Four times a year the Liturgical Calendar sets aside time to pray for the Church and especially that the right people would be called and set apart for ministry. Is this indulgent? Does this shut down the ‘priesthood of all believers’ if you’re regularly (four times a year!) praying for people to be raised up as pastors, leaders and ministers?

Coincidentally, my Daily Office Gospel reading today was the calling of the first Disciples to be ‘fishers of men’, which I have always read to in some sense refer to all those who are called to follow Jesus. Why then does the rhythm of the Church’s life, the Liturgical Calendar, ask Christians to think and pray specifically that God would raise up people for ministry.

I think there are two good Scriptural reasons for this which intertwine.

In Acts, the writer Luke (as in, the Gospel of) records a time where a group of believers fasted and prayed and discerned that the Holy Spirit said “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13). Saul and Barnabas went out into the Gentile world to preach the Gospel and establish communities which would mirror the Jerusalem experience after Pentecost. That is to say, local churches.

In Ephesians Paul teaches, seemingly from experience, that God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:10-13). Since Paul identifies himself as an apostle it is not a stretch to assume that Paul understood his work, the work he had been set apart for in Acts 13 (Paul being the name Saul takes as he moves away from his previous life).

Therefore the Church has throughout the ages set apart people with a certain set of gifts and learnings to build up the people of God for the work they have been assigned, which is to say the making of disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

It is this deep and ancient calling of Christian ministry which I have heard resounding in my own life and which I have decided to walk in by staying in Annapolis to serve and to call together new communities of believers.

So therefore this week I am praying for the Pastor and Elders I serve and also for all those who have been called into Christian ministry. May you also pray for me as I continue in my ministry.

I ask your prayers for:

  1. My support raising, that I will reach my goal of $2000 (£1500)
  2. My paperwork, that it would be processed very soon
  3. My relationships here, that I would be received with grace and favour
  4. My life, that I would walk in a manner worthy of Christ in the power of the Spirit

Collect for Ember Days

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of
your faithful people is governed and sanctified:
Receive our supplications and prayers,
which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may truly and devoutly serve you;
through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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Ministry Update Summer 2015

In this update you will find: 
1. A reflection on my progress
2. The next steps based on the things others have affirmed
3. Plans for my time back to the UK from September 29th
4. How I can serve you.

Bonus 5. My first sermon preached for Downtown Hope

I’m coming to the end of this my first year in America and I have so much to share. This year I have learned the value of being available to others, to walk with people through their trials and that the most important thing I can do for anyone else is to be faithful to God. Any and all good fruit comes from this, despite what smooth-talking marketing types might suggest, I have learned that what I do is much less important than the person I am.

This is a lesson I in fact learned from the Book of Common Prayer. Over the summer I began inviting people to worship with me on a Wednesday night using the old liturgy for Vespers (Evening Prayer). Kneeling we confess our sin and standing we affirm our unity in the Triune God; we listen to Scripture being read. We pray for the church and for the world; and we do all of this without using clever words of our own invention. To worship in such a way that the only offering I can bring is myself, that I can’t make any grand performance of elaborate prayers that make me look special, that we are all included in this same experience, held to account by these words given to us has been deeply humbling. I cannot do anything to make God’s kingdom come any sooner except pray ‘your Kingdom come’.

I think that by making disciplined choices to be a certain kind of person before I think about doing certain kinds of things I have been able to have a far greater impact in Annapolis. I am a part of this community because I took time to listen and be with the people of it before I thought about what I can to to help those people or teach them the faith. Being sent here as a Missionary, I thought I was supposed to make a difference by starting some kind of programme. Having helped launch and maintain several programmes which connect people across socio-economic boundaries I know now that what is asked of all Christians is firstly that they pattern their lives after Jesus. Activity and activism are good, but they are not the Everlasting Kingdom.

We know Jesus is present on the earth not because some people got some more food but because a person walked into another person’s life in his Name.

This is what I believe to be not only the heart of mission, but the heart of all the Church’s common life. 

Therefore I have come to understand my calling as the calling to go and be, rather than go and do. This is how I have seen people make steps of discipleship: Not because I told them what to do, but because I first showed them.

For this reason I am joining a mission house in Annapolis. A central location in the heart of the city where Christians offer hospitality, ministry and welcome to outsiders. I am making a decision to live for the blessing of others with all the hours of my week, by sharing my time, energy and possessions with any who should have need of them. This is an opportunity I was offered 12 months ago but I did not yet feel ready for the demands of such a life. From the bedrock of the disciplines I have recieved from the traditions of the church, I feel confident now that I can live for others without becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. It’s funny that a year ago I thought I was giving up a lot to follow Christ across an ocean, and now this next step just seems so obvious.

My goal is to offer to those I live with and those who cross my path regular opportunities to come together for some act of common worship in order that a community of people would become the light of Christ in this city.

We would aim to make the grace and presence of God known and visible to those who now neither see it nor know it.

In order to accomplish this work I will be learning from those who have planted churches and started new works, and also under the authority of Downtown Hope’s leadership for accountability and support. It has taken me a long time to come around to the idea that I could or should attempt to catalyse a community such as this, but having received the affirmation of my colleagues at Downtown Hope and many others I would like to embark on the work of calling a people together for the worship of God.

Before this can occur I need to wait for my visa to be renewed and this means a short trip back to England. I will be landing on September 29th and am likely to be in England for a few weeks. We submitted some paperwork that would allow me to stay for up to 5 years last month but I think if you’ve walked with me on this journey for the past couple of years you’ll know how my last attempt was fraught with difficulties. This time around the church is a registered charity, which was the reason the paperwork didn’t go through last time. I am confident I’ll be back in the USA later this year.

So what will I be doing in England?

Well, I hope you’ll help me answer that question. I would like to share the things I’ve learned about ministry with the poor and marginalised, engaging 20-somethings with the Common Prayer tradition, Evangelism as being Christ to others and the value of being known by name to the baristas and barstaff of your neighborhood. In other words, I am available and would love to serve you! I also spent this year developing my skills in communication and design, making downtownhope.org both beautiful and full of useful resources. I am available for hire to churches and individuals to enduring communications solutions. I’d like to spend a bit of time reading and maybe get myself back behind a bar for a while too.

Please DO reach out to me for visits, either just for fun or if you would like me to share any of my experiences, or to hear about the vision for a faith community in Annapolis. I would love to serve you with my skills, experiences or by pulling you a pint. You can email me at ian@finallyhuman.com

Thank you as always to those who have been supporting me financially this year and those who have checked in on me from time to time. I rely on the support of the people of God to enable my ministry and as I take this next step I am going to continue to need it.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Bonus 5: check out my sermon here. 

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My First Year Is Almost Up

I am sitting here on a couch with a faded cover in a red and moss-green pattern with three distinct grooves–helpfully designating the individual spots one should sit in on this piece of furniture–worn in from years of people sitting here to look out onto the street, to watch the people walk by.

My first year in America is nearly over. It has been a full and fruitful time. I walked in today as my friend R was busily fixing the AC unit, being watched by J the Midshipman who was running an unhelpful commentary for everyone’s amusement. I knew the names of half the people in here, and a few more by face. I know their stories, their joys and frustrations. So I happened upon the sight in the storage room with the broken AC unit and wide-grinning faces turned to greet me by name: I am known, too.

Ministry is not about doing things to people or making people change. Since ministry is, properly considered, the activity of making God’s reality known and tangible to the people of the world, a good amount of it is found in this knowing one-another stuff.

I was at lunch with a friend last week. She introduced herself to me as Jasmine, but no one I ask seems to remember that name. She told me that people recognise me in the Old 4th Ward, Clay Street Community. This is a neighbourhood where you’ll always see a police car sitting by the entrance and screaming sirens will visit most weeks…yet nothing ever turns up in the newspapers. Jasmine supposes it’s because no one cares what happens to poor, black folks and I struggle when she says things like that. Jasmine told me that no one could believe that I was there to support a local initiative. The only time young, smartly dressed white boys go down that street, she said, is to buy drugs. In fact she said that any weekend she’ll sit across from the trendy bars and frequently the beautiful people will pull out hundreds of dollars and ask her to go and find them whatever powder or pill they desire. How could she say no? And yet her neighbourhood is treated like some kind of prison, as if it’s all their fault.

Jasmine, or whoever she is to the rest of her neighbours, is my friend and she has taught me more about the city than I could have found in the press.

I have become not only an acquaintance or neighbour, but friends with many in this city who live their various lives, so separated from one another by habit, pride or wickedness. The bar and restaurant staff of the trendy bars whose patrons cast their cash into the hands of the desperate; the students who are here in Annapolis to become adults; the street people with their scripted sob-stories and the myriad other people whose lives depend on this community, and upon whom this community depends.

I believe this is the sweet fruit of living vulnerably. I left behind security to take a step where it seemed God was leading, and God has provided a home for me amongst the people I never expected and may never have chosen. Being available and being in need is a choice, a choice of faith which seems to be pretty central to the ministry of Jesus Christ, who emptied and humbled himself (Philippians 2:6). It would be disingenuous to arrive in a place to share the Gospel as though I had something to offer when Jesus only had his life to offer. The Gospel is not a matter of ideas, principles or feelings but of life, love, and long suffering. This is, I suppose, why the Gospel could only be shown by the life of the God-Man and not broadcast as some oracle from heaven.

So after a year of ministry I’ve learned that the most important thing to do at all times, is to obey the example of Jesus. Schemes, organisation, activism and learning are important and I think you’ll agree I’ve had a fair attempt at all of these. However once the campaign is over, the funds are raised or the policy change has gone through, people still need God’s grace to be shown to them and this is really only possible when a person makes this their commitment. This is the strange connection between mission and discipleship: Obeying Jesus makes the Christian into a lover of souls and therefore a participant in the worldwide ministry of Jesus.

I have learned therefore not to judge my own success by the metrics of sociological change or number of participants but rather in the number of people who invite me into their lives. In doing so I do not think it too presumptuous to suggest that this is how God gets into people’s lives. This was after-all how I came to faith.

So now as I consider the next twelve months I am anxious not to waste the opportunities I’ve had to connect with people in the city. My desire now is to call all the myriad people of this city, who I have been able to reach, to the worship of the one true God: The one who can reconcile Jasmine with J, R and all the rest who now share this city and do not share a life.

I’ll be writing more on this in the coming days, about what it would look like for me to work in Annapolis to call together a community of people for the worship of God. I value however your prayers, affirmation and comments!

Thank you, all you who have given in faith to see this vision mature. Soon I will be spending some time back in the UK and I hope for many opportunities to share all the wonderful things which have been accomplished!

Last Supper - Tintoretto, 1570

Richard Hooker on the Blessed Sacrament

Our hunger is satisfied and our thirst is for ever quenched; here are things wonderful which we feel, great which we see and unheard of which we utter whose souls are possessed of this Paschal Lamb and made joyful in the strength of this new wine. This bread hath in it more than the substance which our eyes behold, this cup hallowed with solemn benediction avails to the endless life and welfare both of soul and body…it serves as well as a medicine to heal our infirmities and purge our sins as for a sacrifice of thanksgiving…it is enough that to me who takes them, they are the Body and Blood of Christ, his promise suffices, his word he knows which way to accomplish. Why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant but this: O my God, thou art true, O my soul, thou art happy?

Adapted from Of The Laws Of Ecclesiastical Polity, Richard Hooker, 1593

In remembrance of Corpus Christi, which is today included in the Church of England’s calendar of feasts I was reminded of this quote from the early Anglican theologian Richard Hooker. He seems to suggest here that in the act of sharing in the Lord’s Supper the Christian is transported not only to that upper room for the Last Supper, but in some mysterious and miraculous sense partakes of the fullness of God’s promises. All the Gospel might well be expressed in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the everlasting feast all humanity is made for. Not only do we join the Disciples in that Upper Room, but we come to Christ trusting that he will fulfil his purposes on the earth if only we would come to him. We also come because we know that we as individuals need to receive this nourishment from the Lord, like the manna in the desert and like the great feast of the Psalmist or the promised abundance of Isaiah.

To come and take the small bite of bread and sip of the cup expresses a deeper and more real faith than any theologising of scriptural learning or moral piety could ever express.

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:54


The Church Alone Knows The Truth About God

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.

Athanasian Creed, opening paragraph.

It turns out that there is a people on this earth who know quite exclusively the truth about God and therefore the nature of the reality he created.

It is not the West. Enlightenment era industrial revolution may have made Europe and America the conquerors of the world, but the truth does not fill the iron glove of Imperial might. Nor is it the ‘Eastern mystics’ so patronisingly mis-read by contemporary materialists to atone for their neglect not only of themselves but their community. The truth about God is not found in the records of kingdoms and dynasties. It did not march across the world with Alexander the Great’s army and no one took it to the farthest flung parts of the earth for people to go looking for it.

But who would trust people to bear the truth anyway?

It must have been written somewhere, sometime. Perhaps in the old books, the sacred books can the truth about God be found. If someone were to read long enough and broadly enough, surely then it would be unwrapped-the mystery of God! And we can gather around this book eating its pages for our food.

Yet books are just the product of people powerful enough to demand their ideas be written down, especially the old ones.

Then surely each person must discern the truth about God for themselves? Books and communities cannot be trusted with such a delicate and sacred thing. Group those people together and they can worship the God they have discovered: A true faith based not on fallible people but on the pure brilliance of the human imagination. These must be the people who know the truth about God!

The Church is a people in the midst of the world who share a book and have an imagination spanning thousands of years. The Church makes the bold announcement that she and she alone knows who God is. God is three Persons sharing one Being. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There have been many communities who have picked up the documents derived from the ancient Hebrew people and the early followers of Jesus who have not arrived at this conception of God. Regard the Unitarians or Islam, Anabaptists and Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Oneness Pentecostals. All of these and many others opened the pages of the Bible and arrived at a conception of God foreign to the preaching of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

It is not a foregone conclusion that one could pick up the Bible and arrive at the same knowledge of God. This is easily demonstrated with a glance through history or indeed five minutes on the internet. The idea of the Trinity belongs to the Church alone and unapologetically does she say with the words of Athanasius “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold (this belief in the Trinity)”.

How remarkable, how laughable that there should be in this world one people who claim exclusive knowledge of God! How fragile are such small people, easily blown about by whim and wealth. How subjective their readings of old books. How narrow minded to believe they alone know how to describe God!

Jesus, that great blank-cheque of moral discussion, is recorded to have prayed to God

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world…I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”

John 17:6-10

Jesus seems to believe that those he had called to be his disciples had been shown a truth that the world did not know. Therefore the disciple’s teaching, once they had become Apostles, was to disclose this truth about God to the world.

Thus there is born (again) in the world a people. The Church, who maintains to this day (with a quavering voice in recent years) the belief that she alone knows who God is.

An unpleasant people. A broken people. A sinful people.

Jesus did not seem to mind that when he told them all he would tell them. Who am I to insist that Jesus was wrong and that somehow the Church has become ‘broken’?

It seems to me that a belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is an act of submission, to give up one’s mind and indeed life to the Church and to affirm that throughout history, no matter what wrong her members have done, that she has triumphantly been faithful in proclaiming the truth about God.

It was always thus.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Cor. 4:7

augustine of Canterbury

Celibacy for Mission

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.

(1 Corinthians 7:32-34)

Today was the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury. He was the first Archbishop of Canterbury, consecrated around 600 AD after leading a team of 40 missionaries, priests and monks who preached in the kingdom of Kent. Because of Augustine’s efforts, the people of England became and remained for over a thousand years a Christianised people.

By this I do not mean to suggest that the United Kingdom is a Christian nation, merely that the story of God and the worship of him was widely accepted and embraced on England’s shores. The Church became a community institution which in various times collected and distributed taxes, mediated property, ran schools and facilitated local and regional political dialogue.

Gregory’s mission to Kent seems to have been a roaring success.

Augustine and his companions were called out of the Monastery for their mission. I believe this single fact is key to the success of Christianity’s spread not only in England but in many other tribes and peoples.

English history is full of dynasties and tribes who come and rule for a time and then fade away or fall out of favour and are overthrown. The Church experiences its own turmoil in England but is not overthrown or rejected like the Normans or Stuarts or whoever else. The reason for this to me is clear.

The Church did not rely on the success of any one dynasty or family, tribe or culture for its mission. Because it grew through conversion, it could have a life among the people, in the villages, towns and cities, which existed independently of families or bloodlines.

The monastics and the chaste religious live in their very bodies the reality that the Church exists by faith not by family. They show that they have nothing to gain through their preaching, that they are not attempting to establish a name or accumulate wealth. They can go anywhere in the world and give their lives away, as the 40 did who left Rome for England.

Perhaps it is because this is such a difficult burden to comprehend, the idea of giving up not only one’s future but also the potential good of that future, that Protestants who are divorced from those grand, old and transcendent Church traditions have not upheld the uniqueness of not only single clergy but other alternative forms of human community.

I submit that something has been profoundly lost with the forgetting of this ancient path to which some have been called. Protestants mistake the Monastic call for that of an attempt to earn God’s favour or an oppressive regime of submission to corrupt institutions. Can it be that those who are lifelong singles could be received today as the frontrunners in the Church and heralds of the Gospel as they have been in the past? What would have to change for that to be a reality?