A Tribute to the Rev James Bogle
on the occasion of his retirement from public ministry.
As we all know, institutions need both continuity and change if they are not only to survive but thrive. And the Church is no exception.
Continuity so that we don't forget our past and our roots. Change so that the future is refreshed and fruitful. And all being worked out in an often complex present. Continuity and change - and it has always seemed to me, James, that you have embodied both.
Change in that when you were ordained in 1960, and became a curate in Bermondsey, you also became part of what was termed ‘South Bank religion’, the Anglican movement which worked to make traditional Christianity more relevant to a post War world.
Change in that for example you have been alert and alive to, and welcomed, social changes which have transformed south London since the War. As is reflected in the hymn you wrote for the parish, which we rightly sing each St Catherine's Day:
‘Here men and women, black and white,
All are at one, as in God’s sight’.
And let's remember that you were a young priest at a time when many other priests were ‘encouraging’ black parishioners to go and worship elsewhere.
Change but also continuity.For me, James, you have embodied continuity in two ways in particular.
First, you have seemed the embodiment of the classic Anglican priest - intellectual, spiritual, wise. Your sermons so often embody all three of those characteristics. Intellectual, as one would expect from someone who studied at and took his degree from Peterhouse, Cambridge. Wise, in that one always thought here is a man steeped in the history of the Church. A man whose words were shaped by a profound theological view but tempered to the needs of the congregation in the here and now. And spiritual in that you seemed sometimes to bring an echo of another world, or of some inner voice, to what you so eloquently said.
Secondly, continuity as a faithful presence Sunday after Sunday, either in the pews or helping to minister from the altar or the pulpit.
And now you are stepping back from formal, public ministry. But not from your informal ministry , which will continue. Not stepping back from being a priest, not stepping back from priesthood itself.
The former dean of Durham, Dr Michael Sadgrove, wrote this of being a priest: “Luke says that Jesus ‘went through cities and villages proclaiming good news of the Kingdom of God. And the Twelve were with him, as well as some women’ ”. ‘‘All of Christian service’’, wrote Dr Sadgrove, “all of Christian life is in that short statement about being with Jesus in his ministry.''
You, James, are so evidently someone who is with Christ, who walks with Christ. And you do so with grace - achieved , I’m sure, not without personal cost along the way. But, for example the fortitude and stoicism with which you bear your cross of deafness is evidence of an inner grace which shines out.
So, James, we mark your retirement from formal public ministry and we salute all you have done. But we also give thanks that your priesthood, your being a priest, will continue to illuminate this congregation and this place week by week, season by season.
Thank you on behalf of us all.
(William Chapman, Churchwarden - 1 October 2017)
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