The Church here at St Mary’s is the local worshipping community living in fellowship with one another. But it is more: it is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Holy because called by Christ to be his witness to the world.
Catholic because it was created to be universal. The Church is not only “militant here in earth,” but joined to all the saints, the angels and archangels, which is the Church in heaven.
Apostolic because it was founded on the appointment of the twelve apostles by Jesus himself. In response to Peter’s recognition, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus assured him, “Thou art Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
The history of the Church from its very beginning shows that the gates of hell are having a very good try!
We do not cease to be sinners just because we attend Church. And the Church will never be perfect in this world. That must wait until the Second Coming of Our Lord in triumph and great glory to judge the living and the dead. You might even say that we go to Church because we are sinners. We go to hear the good news that our sins are forgiven through the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the centre of the Church is Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Because in this Sacrament we receive the Body of Christ, the Church itself is called the Body of Christ.
The purpose and work of the Church is our personal formation after the pattern of Jesus Christ.
The Church is the custodian of the Holy Scriptures where they are expounded and taught by priests and ministers ordained by God. Our ministry is founded on the apostolic order of bishops, priests and deacons.
The other, and related, purpose of the Church is mission. Jesus commanded his disciples: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So the Church is also the custodian of true doctrine in the recognition of the being of God as Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one God.
Jesus promised his disciples that he would send them the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles “…as of a rushing, mighty wind…and cloven tongues like as of fire.”
The Day of Pentecost – Whit Sunday – has been called the Church’s birthday.
The gift of the Spirit is guaranteed for all ages. So we pray, particularly at ordinations, “Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire; and lighten with celestial fire.”