The most important thing?

Recently, I went to the World Student Christian Federation Pacific Subregional Women’s Programme on “Healing ourselves, our communities and our planet.”  It was an amazing experience, and I think it will give me much to reflect on for a long time.

As part of the programme (which was held at Puketeraki Marae, near Karitane on New Zealand’s South Island), the organisers asked Councillor Jinty MacTavish, the youngest woman ever elected to serve on Dunedin’s City Council, to come and speak to us about her work as it related to our theme.  Someone present asked her, given the complexities of politics and the fact that the desire to make a positive difference is often frustrated by bureaucracy, compromise and distraction, what she saw as the most important thing in her work.

Cr. MacTavish’s answer struck me as being very profound.  I didn’t manage to capture it word for word, but in effect she said that the most important thing in creating positive change was creating and supporting a community of people who are asking questions of ultimate concern, and committed to acting as best they can on the answers.  Having such a community is foundational to everything else.

I don’t know what religious conviction – if any – Cr. MacTavish holds.   But it struck me that she had described so very neatly what the church ought to be in the world; a community of people asking questions about things that really matter, and committed to acting on the answers.

Yet so few congregations really do this well.  Some are not truly acting as a community but are a collection of individuals who come together for worship.  Some don’t want to have to confront hard questions.  Some struggle to take the step to move from reflecting to action.

It seems to me that part of my job in ministry is not to settle for that, but to keep encouraging people to remember that in order to be salt and light in the world we have to actually do stuff.  And to be effective about it.  Cr. MacTavish’s answer reminded me that this is not an optional extra in ministry, but may well be one of the most important things I can do.

Book Review: What Clergy Do

I wrote this book review for our diocesan newspaper, but thought I would put it here as well.  

Emma Percy. “What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing,” SPCK, London, 2014.

Emma Percy is a priest in the Church of England who has worked as a deaconess, a deacon, a parish priest and a university chaplain. She and her husband (also a priest) have raised two sons, and her doctoral thesis was on the theology of mothering. In this book, she draws on her wide experience to reflect on the role and work of the clergy. Percy uses mothering as a metaphor for exploring parish ministry; not to discuss the tasks clergy do, but the attitudes and habits of thought which she sees as shared between “good enough” mothering and good parish ministry.   She integrates her own reflections with insights drawn from the worlds of philosophy, psychology, spirituality and worship.

She reflects on being a priest-in-charge, and how being “in charge” might be more about having a responsibility to care for and nurture people, than about being “the boss.” She discusses how clergy inhabit a role which is more about relationship than it is about activity; the need for attending to the concrete reality of these people in this place in order to nurture them and draw out their gifts; and issues of dependence and interdependence. She also reflects on how clergy integrate their lives and their work, and discusses the very maternal arts of “weaning” (managing change) and creating and keeping a spiritual “home.”

The maternal metaphor, Percy acknowledges, is not the only or an exhaustive one. But, she says, “it does offer a rich way of integrating the mundane and the mystical, the practical and spiritual, the being and doing, the highs and lows, the thinking and feeling, the joys and heartaches present in taking on the responsibility to care for real people in real places.”

The book is thoughtful but accessible to a popular audience, with reference to more academic works for those keen to explore the topic in more depth.

As a deacon ordained this year, and as the mother of a toddler, I found this book gave me vocabulary for the continuity I felt instinctively across those two roles. Reading it, there were moments when I thought, “Yes, it’s exactly like that!” The importance of Percy’s contribution for me is that it reflected on ministry in terms which were very familiar from my own lived experience, and gave me a richness of resources for my own continuing reflections. I would warmly recommend it for clergy looking for fresh language and insights into their work, for students preparing for ordination, and for anyone who would like to better understand what their clergy actually do, especially when it looks like nothing.

Not a zero-sum game

This is the text of a sermon for the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, in the parish where I am now licensed. The Scriptures it references are Matthew 25:14-30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

At first blush, this morning’s gospel reading might seem a bit grim. What was all of that about harsh masters, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth? Where’s the good news in that? And what does it all have to do with what we’re here for today, particularly William’s family, bringing him for baptism?

Well, I think it does have something encouraging to say, but it needs some careful attention, so let’s take a couple of minutes to do that.

So in today’s gospel reading Jesus told a story about a master and his slaves. And – as with all stories – to understand his point, it helps to know what kind of story this is. So many of Jesus’ stories start with “The kingdom of heaven is like…” that we get used to it, and can listen to all of his stories as if they start that way. But this one doesn’t. It starts with “For it is as if…” This story isn’t telling us about God and his reign. It’s telling us about the world as we experience it in everyday life.

So that’s the first thing to notice. The master in this story isn’t God. And if we identify with the slaves, then the harsh masters we experience in life are the constraints in our social system; the powers that be; the unjust economic forces, the tyrannical employers, perhaps even dominating patriarchs and matriarchs. But whatever form they take for each of us personally, this is not a story about how God relates to us.

I should also explain that the slaves in this story are being entrusted with money. Where the reading talks about “talents,” the word doesn’t mean talent as in aptitude or ability, but is referring to an ancient commercial weight. In effect, the master in the story has entrusted each of his slaves with money, and expects to receive a return on investment from them.

So what, then, is Jesus saying about this world, in which we can – and often do – experience fear, oppression, exclusion and deprivation at the hands of forces greater than ourselves?

I think the key really comes at the end of the story, where Jesus has the master saying, “to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance.” The master in the story recognizes one of the great principles of life; and that is, that we don’t inhabit a closed system. Life is not a zero-sum game. Money invested earns interest; crops produce more seed than was sown; and clutter expands to fill the available space.  (Okay, maybe that last one is just at my house).

But recognize the basic point; the reason the master in this story is angry with his slave is that he has missed out on something he could reasonably have expected. His money should have increased in the time he was away, and it was the fact that his slave didn’t recognize and act on that, that made him “worthless.”

Now this might be a principle in everyday life, but it points us to a profound truth about the way God has created the universe. Theologians sometimes call this truth the “law of increase,” and – here’s where it gets interesting for us – it is as true of spiritual matters as it is of money in the bank.

In a few minutes, Billy’s family are going to present him to be baptized. In that baptism, Billy is going to receive a visible sign of the promises of God. We could think of this as a spiritual deposit being entrusted to him – and those responsible for him – today.

But we know, because he is still only a small baby, that what happens today is just the beginning. As he grows and matures as a person, what is begun here today can grow as part of him, so that he can know God’s love and respond to it in love and joy and faith. And just as the master in the story could look for growth and a return on investment for his money, we – and particularly Billy’s family – can look for, and have a responsibility to nurture, that growth in him.

And it’s not just about Billy. Each of us, living out our baptism, has a similar responsibility to nurture what’s been entrusted to us. And here’s where I want to mention briefly what Paul had to say in our second reading.

He wrote to the people in the church at Thessalonica: “you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober… and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

Let us not fall asleep… be sober… hold on to faith and love and hope. This is how Paul tells his readers to tend the deposit of faith entrusted to them in baptism.

This has some implications for all of us. In a world where we often find ourselves caught up in oppressive systems, the spiritual life is not a zero-sum game, but an aspect of our lives which can flourish despite whatever else might be going on. We can find supports for our spiritual lives in community with others, we can be strengthened by prayer, we can make sure we educate ourselves about the bigger picture of how God is at work in the world. We can come to recognize our own gifts and how to use them to contribute to the common good.

These are ways in which we can build up what has been entrusted to us.   So let us come now to baptize Billy, with all of these things held in hope, for Billy’s future and for each of us, as the light to which we are called, which will shine ever more brightly in each of us, until we reach the full day.

The date of Christmas

So Christmas is getting close enough that once again, I am repeating myself about a particular bugbear of mine; the common belief that the date of Christmas is the 25th of December in order to coincide with a major Pagan festival and entice Pagans into the church.

Because he says it much better than I can, and I completely agree with him, I’m going to copy below an old blog post (original here) on the topic from Andrew McGowan, Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale (and a lecturer of mine, when he was still in Australia).  Short version: the early church didn’t think about things the way we do, or the way we expect them to have.  Christmas is where it is for reasons other than converting Pagans.  So there.

From McGowan:

“The lack of specific information about the timing of Jesus’ birth has not kept the enthusiastic and the ingenious from speculating about the exact date of the first Christmas. The silence of the Gospels on this does reveal one thing fairly clearly, however: the earliest Christians were not much interested in the issue.

Christmas as such was probably not celebrated in the first couple of centuries after Jesus’ birth at all. Far more interesting to the first Christians was Easter, their version of Passover, which commemorated the last climactic events of Jesus’ ministry rather than the poignant stories of his beginning. Since Jesus’ last great conflict with the Roman authorities and their collaborators had taken place at Passover, his death was interpreted along lines suggested by the great Jewish festival, and his resurrection celebrated in conjunction with it.

The observance of Christmas as a major feast appears only rather later, in the fourth century or at the end of the third. By this time Christians were placing greater emphasis on God’s personal presence in a human being throughout Jesus’ life – the “incarnation” or enfleshment of God, as teachers such as Irenaeus of Lyons and Athanasius of Alexandria put it. Jesus’ own conception and birth thus became matters of greater concern and curiosity in popular belief and ritual as well. Christians had also come gradually to observe a greater variety of holidays, such as those commemorating the deaths of martyrs; these anniversaries of heroes who died for their faith were known as “birthdays,” the occasion of a new birth to life in God’s presence. The celebration of Jesus’ literal birthday was not such a huge leap.

Yet the appearance of a specific date for Christmas is somewhat mysterious. In fact there were originally two, December 25th and January 6th (now known as the Feast of the Epiphany), which came to be observed in the West and East of the Roman Empire respectively. Both these dates were close to the winter solstice – December 21st in our modified Gregorian calendar. Mid-winter festivals had already been common – the Romans had their Saturnalia, and other peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times.

Ancient authors had already noticed the connection, but nineteenth-century scholars, spurred on by the emergent study of comparative religion, seized upon this coincidence with something approaching fervor. Since these dates could not really be linked to the birth date of the historical Jesus, were they not just thinly-veiled pagan festivals, appropriated and Christianized only superficially? It was no secret that Christian leaders such as Pope Gregory the Great had encouraged the “baptism” of pagan religious observances for evangelistic purposes, and this connection could not have been ignored or avoided in the expansion of Christmas feast.

Such views have become dogma in many popular discussions, but the truth seems likely to be more complex. There are two key problems with to the “solstice” theory. The first is that the oldest evidence for Christmas festivals is just slightly too early to make sense as a Christianized Saturnalia, since it comes from the time when Christians were still a persecuted group distinguished by refusal to adopt obvious pagan customs, rather than by readiness to adapt. The second is that while feasts of the incarnation were indeed late in achieving recognition and widespread liturgical celebration, these actual dates – or one of them at least – had been identified much earlier. Clement ofAlexandria, who wrote around 200 CE, was already aware of the January 6th date given for Jesus’ birth.

The key to understanding the emergence of both January 6th and December 25th as dates for Jesus’ birth festival lies – strange as it may seem – in the dating of Passover and of Jesus’ death, which were known to have coincided. Christians in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire took the fourteenth day of the first Spring month (‘Artemisios’) in the local calendar – April 6th to us – as their equivalent for the date of Passover, Nisan 14th. In the West however, speculation about the date of Jesus’ death had landed on a different date, March 25th, by about the year 200.

These two Paschal dates are of course nine months before the eastern and western feasts of the incarnation, January 6th and December 25th. So some Second-century Christians had apparently calculated the birth of Jesus on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day – and come up with two close, but different, results.

Aside from the complicated calculations, the connection between Jesus’ conception and death seems odd. Yet Jewish writings of the same period reflect a similar belief that the great events had taken place on the same dates: the Talmud records the view that the world was created, the Patriarchs born, and the world would be redeemed, all in the month of Nisan. Thus the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have begun not with opportunistic borrowings of pagan observances, but from Christian theological reflection on history; Jesus would have been conceived – become incarnate – at the same time he was to die, and born nine months later.

The commonly-drawn connection with the winter solstice is not irrelevant. Clearly this coincidence made the expansion of the feast of the nativity more strategically important, and Christians were not backward in appropriating some of the symbols already known to pagans. Yet the origin of the date of Christmas is probably owed more directly to Judaism than to paganism, and the growth in the importance of the feast is more directly connected with deepening reflection by Christians of the early centuries on the significance of the event it commemorated.”

The imitation of Christ

This is the text of a sermon for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, in the parish where I am now licensed. The Scriptures it references are 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 and Matthew 22:15-33.

A little boy was visiting his grandma. He asked thoughtfully, “Grandma, do you know how you and God are alike?”
She mentally polished her halo while she asked, “No, how are we alike?
“You’re both old.”

Well. In our epistle reading today, Paul praised the Thessalonions for having been imitators of the Lord. And it’s a neat concept, a useful one for our own reflections, this idea of imitating the Lord. But just like the little boy with his grandma, it’s an idea which is prone to getting tangled up in our misconceptions, or our pious fantasies about what the Lord is like, and what imitating the Lord might mean. It’s also – let’s face it – a very big umbrella; how do you define what it is to imitate the Lord? It’s not easily reducible to neat formulae, or a simple list of rules. It’s more complicated than that.

So I take on the topic acknowledging up front that I can only pick up one little bit this morning and reflect on that with you; and that I cannot possibly do justice to the whole topic here. It will take each of us a lifetime to unpack the full implications for us of what it means to imitate the Lord.

So let me start here. In that absolute classic 15th-century work, Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, he says – in passing, almost as a throw-away line – “Do not seek too much freedom.” It made me pause, when I came across it; because freedom is so very much a virtue of our times. Is it even possible, contemporary culture might well ask, to have too much freedom? Should we not all be as free as possible? Isn’t that a measure of our worth and dignity as human beings, that we recognize personal and political autonomy as basic human rights? So what was Thomas on about, and did he have anything valuable to say to that sort of thinking?

I came to the conclusion, in thinking about this, that there are perhaps two kinds of freedom with which we ought to be concerned. One is the freedom to be who we are; to be able to be open, honest, transparent and participate in our communities with absolute integrity. This is the kind of freedom which Jesus showed us so well; he knew who he was, and he didn’t change the way he presented it to please the scribes, the Pharisees, the crowds or even his own disciples. Of this sort of freedom, I don’t think we can have too much.

Taking up this freedom means recognizing that each of us is precisely whom God has created us to be; that we have each been given gifts for the building up of this community, and that each of us are called to make a contribution to the life of the church and the world. None of that – who we are, what gifts we have, what contribution we each make – is anything that we ever need to apologise for. It’s why, when I was asked recently by someone outside the church about how I deal with people who have a problem with women in ministry, my response was to say, well, I understand their position, but they just have to suck it up, because I’m here, and this is who I am. And I’m not going to apologise for that.

But there is another kind of freedom. The freedom to do just whatever we please. We see that taken to an extreme, perhaps, in the cliché about generation Y that they don’t RSVP to invitations or make concrete plans in case something better comes up in the interim. Not wanting to be tied down, but always open to the best offer in the moment. And so you get youth-oriented churches, for example, who send out SMS reminders of church services hours beforehand in an attempt to boost attendance.

I’m happy to say that I don’t think we need to resort to that just yet. But this sort of freedom is very different to the freedom to be who you are. Its opposite is not oppression; it is commitment. And when we think about it, it becomes obvious that a balanced human life needs some of this sort of freedom, but also can indeed have too much of it; the person who does not commit at all is likely to be a dilettante student, an unreliable employee, an unsatisfactory romantic partner, and… I wonder, what sort of Christian?

Jesus, from the moment of his baptism right through to his death by crucifixion, set us an example of unwavering commitment. And we heard it, in a way, in his teaching in today’s gospel reading as well; “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” It’s a question worth pausing and taking seriously; what do we think we rightly owe God?

Let me be clear; this isn’t me trying to guilt trip people into doing more, being here more, or otherwise trying to offer some sort of proof of personal piety. But I’m suggesting that Christian commitment ought to make a difference. It ought to impact on our priorities. It ought to open us up to the question, “What would God have me do?” or, if that’s too abstract, to consider how the mission of God, and the values we can identify as consistent messages through Scripture, relate to the choices we have to make.

Be imitators of the Lord, and one day, what you have in common with God won’t be just that you’re both old – though that might happen too – but also that you are known as people able and ready to teach and nurture others; to recognize and respond to the needs of those around you; to identify and stand against injustice. You’ll be identifiable as people whose moral imagination has been shaped by the example of Christ, and who has learned the wisdom of giving to God, what is God’s; and like the Thessalonians, your reputation as people of faith will be a credit to you.

The Lord be with you.

…in a tongue not understanded of the people.

It is one of the great principles of the Reformation (and even the Catholics caught on by Vatican II) that worship should be offered in the vernacular, that is, in the common everyday language of the people.  Long gone are the days when a Western Christian in Australia (I recognise here the adherence to more ancient tradition of churches such as the Orthodox and the Copts) would expect to worship in Latin or Greek or indeed even sixteenth-century English.  We expect to be able to understand, respond to and participate in what happens when we gather as a body for worship.

This principle has given me a great deal of pause for thought of late, as I have struggled with what it might mean to offer worship that is accessible to people for whom spoken or written language is not intuitive.

A bit of background.  I was approached by someone else asking me for help in providing an opportunity for prayer and worship for children on the autism spectrum, and with related challenges.  “Of course!” was my immediate response.  Followed very quickly by, “…but I have no idea how to do that.”  As I read and sought advice from others, some ideas took shape.  Avoid being abstract.  Avoid metaphor.  Keep it clear and concrete, and as much as possible rely on visual and other sensory information, rather than on words (written or spoken).

I spent time with books on different kinds of prayer.  Here were some suggestions; prayers that were done with movement, or with creative expression; kids could paint pictures of their prayers instead of forming words, that sort of thing.  Ok.  We could do that.

Also, we really needed something from the Bible.  Preferably a gospel story, I felt, if we wanted to claim this as Christian worship rather than just something spiritually undefined and wishy-washy.  Problem: a lot of the Bible is abstract or metaphorical.  And all of it is words.  I looked around for books of stories with lots of pictures, but didn’t find something I felt would work.  My boss had a bright idea – Bible cartoons.  We found some here, and I sorted through looking for one I thought could work.

Other details took shape too; the use of music, the layout of the space, the flow and pace of events so kids weren’t expected to sit still for very long but there was a focus on moving around.

We hope to trial this in coming weeks.  I don’t know how successful it will be; although I hope that God will be able to use it to do something good.

But one thing I’ve discovered is that some people – parents of kids on the spectrum, or otherwise concerned people – are upset at this being an attempt to offer something distinct, instead of integrating these children into our main worship service.

Integration is important; these kids as much as anyone else belong at the Lord’s table and amongst his people, and exclusion of them is absolutely not ok.  But I found myself answering a mother who wanted to know why we would do this, “Well, I wouldn’t expect you to worship in Latin; so why would I expect someone whose way of connecting with the world and making meaning is not verbal and abstract, to worship in that way?”

I don’t intend this to be a replacement for “normal” church attendance and participation.  But most churches don’t have the ability (or let’s face it, the willingness) to totally overhaul their worship into what would be a more natural idiom for a person with autism.  I hope, that by offering something which can supplement other opportunities, and which is constructed with the particular strengths and gifts of these kids as the starting point, we can create a liturgical experience which speaks of the gospel in different ways, and perhaps helps people to make connections which otherwise would go unmade.

Because everyone deserves to be able to talk about, and to, God in their own language.


Apostolic spirituality

This is the text of a sermon for St. Matthew’s day, in the parish where I am now licensed. The Scripture it references is Psalm 119:65-72.

I wonder how many of you have heard someone describe him or herself as “spiritual but not religious”? It’s a growing phenomenon, this way of thinking about life, so much so that that source of all profound knowledge – I refer of course to Wikipedia – tells me that perhaps one third of Americans today fall into this category. Wikipedia didn’t have similar statistics for Australia, but I suspect that as a similar society, it’s likely to be a serious phenomenon here as well.

But what does it mean? What does it mean to be spiritual? And if we are religious, what does that imply about spirituality for us? Perhaps spirituality is a smorgasbord of ideas and behaviours and practices from which we can pick and choose to fashionably accessorise our faith? Or indeed is it a matter of fuzzy thinking best ignored by the wise?

Well, I think it is possible to be religious without being spiritual. But I also think it is dangerous; that way lie dogmatism, fundamentalism, legalism, and institutionalism. We’ve all seen the damage that these approaches to a life of faith can do, and I’m sure I don’t need to encourage you to avoid them.

At the same time, though, it is definitely possible to have a spirituality which isn’t firmly anchored in a relationship with God, and that’s just as dangerous in its own way. That way lie the occult practices which the Bible explicitly forbids, as well as pursuit of whatever makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, perhaps at the expense of our emotional maturity and indeed our common sense. That way, too, lies the risk of projecting our own psyche onto the universe and then wondering why the universe seems so muddled!

The reason that I’ve started by raising questions about spirituality is that this morning I want to consider the Psalm we just sang, but I want to talk particularly about its spirituality and what that might have to offer us. And I want to think with you – on this feast day of St. Matthew – about what that might add to our understanding of what it is to be an apostolic church. More on that later.

The psalmist wrote, “I have trusted in your commandments…I keep your word…teach me your statutes…I will keep your commandments…my delight is in your law…I may learn your statutes…the law of your mouth is dearer.” On the face of it, this psalm can look like an obsessive-compulsive’s hymn to legalism. Over and over the psalmist focuses on God’s law.

And yet we do well, to notice amongst the mentions of the “law,” words about grace and life and delight. And we might also do well to ask, how it is that the psalmist found these things in the law?

Well, the first thing we should note is that the word we translate as “law” – Torah – is not about a legal system. It has at its root the Jewish verb for “to teach” or “to instruct.” For the psalmist, then, delight comes from accepting God’s teaching, rather than living within a set of “rules.” That teaching is not just a set of moral or behavioural precepts; it refers above all to God’s revelation of Godself to Israel. But notice that the psalmist does not treat God’s teaching as fixed or finished; he asks that God continues to teach him. This is a faith which expresses itself in a relationship which is open, trusting and dynamic.

The psalmist’s spirituality has what has been described as a “warm doctrine of God.” The God of this psalm is not withdrawn or neutral; he is present and available to the person who reaches out to Him.

The psalmist had a faith very firmly grounded in what he knew of God. His spirituality wasn’t something he made up as he went along, but at every point he turned back to let his life be formed and re-formed according to the word of the Lord. For us, coming after the time of Christ, our knowledge of God has expanded to include the apostolic witness to Christ; the gospels, the creeds of the early church, and the foundation of the tradition in which we have been nurtured. In order to be truly apostolic, we need to take that as seriously as the psalmist took the teaching he had received.

A further thing to note about this psalm is that it is not an expression of purely individual faith. Whatever the circumstances in which it was written, it was incorporated into the sung worship of the Jerusalem temple, and has continued to be part of the corporate prayer life of both Jews and Christians to this day. Even our use of it this morning is intended to be as much an exercise of prayer and worship as of intellectual processing. It points us to the fact that we connect with God at times in each other’s company and even through each other, through mutual service and the sharing of our gifts and wisdom. And it points us to the fact that God’s self-revelation impacts the decisions and priorities not just of individuals but of communities.

But let me come back to the questions I started with this morning. Is spirituality a bit of a smorgasbord, something from which we can pick and choose as we wish to enhance our faith? I suggest that the psalm we’ve read this morning offers us a qualified answer which says, “yes and no.” Yes, spirituality, even for Christians, offers us a huge variety of ways to connect with God and discern His will. Even the diversity of Scripture shows us that; we can pray and praise our way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and encounter a huge variety of genres of writing, of moods, of characters and stories.

At the same time, the psalm also says, no, Christian spirituality – apostolic spirituality – isn’t entirely undetermined. It is a response to God’s love and self-revelation in Christ. Christian spirituality includes the imperative to obedience, to trust and faith, to coming back again and again to the touchstones we have in Scripture and in tradition, to ensure that we are firmly anchored in the life of faith. It highlights the necessity of facing up to the things in life of which we are afraid, and points us to the resources we have to do so.

The question of what it means to be faithfully apostolic is real and urgent.  It has consequences for our identity and ethos. It is in being faithful to the teaching about God in Christ, which we have received from the apostles, that we can be faithful heirs to the legacy of St. Matthew.