Sharing the Witness


I’m going to hand over this month’s Rector’s letter to a previous Vicar of St. Andrew’s. In 1997, Alan Cooper (vicar from 1951- 1962) returned to speak at St. Andrew’s and he imagined what the stones of St. Andrew’s might say to us if they were able to speak:

We are not just shapeless lumps of rock. We have been carefully quarried, shaped and dressed. Then we were hauled here by land, sea and river, to take a special place in this building. The kind of people who did these things is shown by the kind of building they erected. They did not use us to build roads nor a castle, not a palace, nor the medieval equivalent of a factory or a bank. But they used us to build a Christian Church for the worship of Almighty God.

This is the place where folk like Katherine of Aragon, having arrived in the Catte Water (or Katherine Water), after a very uncomfortable time crossing the Bay of Biscay, came to give thanks for her eventual safe arrival. Here, many others, Sir Francis Drake among them, have come to offer thanks for God’s mercies upon the completion of some great endeavour. This is where in 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers came to seek God’s blessing on their great enterprise and from here they went out and founded a new nation. From here the pike men were called out from divine service to repel Charles’ forces and drive them off Lipson Ridge into Laira creek in the Sabbath day battle of 1643. And many more down the years have sought guidance and resolution as they have gone out to do their duty – not least in this century during two world wars. And when enemy action desecrated and destroyed the interior of this holy place, a school mistress next morning produced a board bearing one word, “Resurgam”, to be nailed over the North Door…

…We have stood here for centuries – through storm and war, as silent witnesses to God’s eternal steadfastness, His welcoming mercies revealed in Jesus Christ and to His purposes of service and healing directed by the Holy Spirit. We invite you to share in our witness.

So our own generation is just one chapter in a much longer story (and I would recommend Jack Spence’s newly revised book on the history of St. Andrew’s; not least because it will help you spot the bit in the above quote which isn’t quite accurate!).  But we must ask – and answer with our lives – the question every previous generation has had to ask themselves:  how can we continue to ‘share the witness’ faithfully and use this building as base from which to live for, worship and proclaim Jesus Christ in the heart of Plymouth and beyond?

With love in Christ,

Joe Dent

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