The re-union of St James and St Joan of Arc is well underway. When I came here ten years ago I said I would be the last full-time priest, it was inevitable given the nature of the Church in the twenty first century.
I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and working within that Church. I am aware, also, that many of the activities of the wider Church have been in denial of this, burying our heads in the sand. But the Spirit is calling us to a new expression of faith, to a deeper understanding of what it is to be Church in this century, to be disciples of Jesus Christ in Brighton.
I also believe that it is fortuitous that St James and St Joan of Arc are both post-coded 3186 Brighton. It takes me back to the “Brighton Mission” of 1892, although there was a church building ten years before that and the Presentation Sisters came in 1884.
It is that sense of “mission” that we are called to re-consider. How can I/we be Church in Brighton today? Our faith calls us to look beyond the surface, to read the signs that are present there. It is a faith born in Baptism when we became one with Jesus Christ on the journey of life and faith, a journey that ended in death and the new life of the resurrection. There is always grief in death and there is a death now with the union of the 2 parishes.
We can grieve for the past, look back with nostalgia, idealise what was. But we cannot undo the past, although we must never forget the past. The fire that guttered St James was a deliberate attack on some of that past, which we must never let go from our consciousness and learn from that experience. But we cannot stay in that grief, otherwise it will consume us, otherwise we do not grow as Church.
I believe that it calls us to be like the people of the original “Mission”, to faith in God and in faith in what we can do. If we look back at what the Spirit has achieved through the people of Brighton in over 130 years we see a remarkable story that can give us the inspiration to enter into God’s creative work among us. Let us open ourselves to that same Spirit at work among us today.
Fr Martin Dixon