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THE VICAR'S LETTER

Tuesday 19th June, 1973


Dear Parishioners,
By an accident of the calendar, today is the feast of Saint Barnabas, the Apostle and Martyr. Amongst all characters of the New Testament, Saint Barnabas is singled out for one characteristic above all - for his goodness. He stood out in the community of The Way for this quality, which can hardly have been in short supply among the Apostles. His character is drawn very carefully in the Acts of the Apostles as being the model Christian.
We see him giving his considerable property to the Church when it had been decided that the Christians should have all things in common, in contrast with the grasping attitude of Ananias and his wife. We see him exerting his great influence in the Church to make the newly converted Paul accepted into the Church - 'if Barnabas vouched for him, he must be all right' - we see him continuinq to be quite content to play second fiddle to Paul on their journeys together. We see him sent as an investigator to find out exactly what was happening in Antioch, and rejoicing to give what he found there the stamp of his approval.
Of course Barnabas was not his real name, but rather his nickname. His real name was Joses. The Church came to call him Barnabas, because this means 'Son of Consolation'. The Church had grown used to turning to him as the great reconciling and stabilising force in their number. With the Church led by Paul and Peter, who did not always see eye to eye on great issues, there was obvious need to have a man like Barnabas who could be sent anywhere to sort out troubles while James remained holding the fort in Jerusalem.
Our collect for Saint Barnabas' Day talks about his 'singular gifts'. Certainly 'he was a good man', but he was more than that - he was also full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. He was the sort of man which the Church then and now can never afford to be without. People who are 'balls of fire'



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have their place in the Church, as they provide the driving force and impetus the Church needs. Yet the prime need for the Church and for the World is a vast number of people who can truly be described as GOOD men and women, full, like Barnabas, of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
The Church of the Apostles had the great gift of Barnabas in their midst, and also the ability to recognise these gifts and their importance and to make the best use of them. Sometimes, I am afraid that we do not share this ability. Perhaps our democratic system in the Church today goes against their being recognised and brought into their full place in the Church's councils.
Saint Barnabas was by no means a leading character in the New Testament but it is hard to imagine the mess that it might have got into without him. Perhaps it is some of the difficulty that we are in today. The Church is full of drive, zeal and enthusiasm with great schemes for the reform of this, that and the other. Yet with all this, there seems to be a lack of overall sense of direction and purpose. Only men and women who share in Barnabas' qualities will give us this sense of direction and stability as we in our time navigate the Way.
[continued]

 

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