Dear Friends, this is not so much a report on the life of the Ebbsfleet Community in the Diocese of Lichfield where I minister, but rather a reflection that draws together two specific areas of work and ministry in the light of the Gospel reading of Luke chapter 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”


Hearing this Gospel a few weeks ago made me ask the question, what do our personal New Year’s resolutions look like and how do we live our Christian life? There are, of course, those basics of sacramental life, prayer, scripture reading and social action. But how do these touch our lives and nourish us day to day, as Christians 24/7? I am aware of those gifts of grace that go on to shape my own life and ministry, and I am called to make the most of the gifts.


One such gift is my membership of the Company of Mission Priests (CMP). CMP was established just after the Second World War at a time of national crisis, shortage of finance and of priests to serve in especially urban and poorer areas of our nation. Several priests would live together in clergy houses and share reduced stipends for the benefit of the local church. CMP has always been found in places like the Northeast, the industrial Northwest and Yorkshire, the Midlands and the South, particularly in the estates in and around London. Today the clergy house may not exist in this form for the time being, but the priests of the Company continue to ministry and support some of the estate and urban parishes of the country, following the example of St Vincent de Paul and the wider Vincentian family. Here in Walsall, we also have a lay Conference of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, which makes visiting those in need and spending time with those in Nursing homes their priority. Such a spirituality gives a love especially for the poor, as St Vincent de Paul himself said, ‘The poor are our Masters’.


Another lens through which we may choose to view our Christian life and discipleship is through the work of organisations such as the NECN – the National Estates Churches Network. This organisation works across the Church traditions supporting clergy, people and pioneer ministry in urban areas of the Country. As Society or Ebbsfleet parishes we may sometimes feel under threat due to our theological conviction. Yet in some ways there is another threat which comes from being financially vulnerable. Often the Church speaks about the need to be able to sustain ministry in a particular place where that is just not possible without help and financial assistance or resourcing. Bishop Philip North has made it clear that our mission priority needs to be the large estates of the nation. Renewal and revival have always been from the grass roots and not a top-down transition. Also, the General Synod of February 2019 made the commitment to work towards a ‘loving, worshipping Christian community on every significant estate in England’. Organisations such as the National Estates Churches Network are working to bring this about and hold the wider church to account. So, there is a hope and a voice for the poor and our church communities when we feel side-lined or undervalued.


These two examples, the Company of Mission Priests and the National Estates churches network are just two of the organisations within the wider church that give personal shape to Christian discipleship for me. I think the challenge of the Gospel and this brief reflection is what will shape the lives of us as Christians in this coming year – What pattern of prayer and action can we take on to give fresh meaning to of Christian Discipleship?