Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday Saints Peter and Paul, happy birthday to you!

Actually, I have to point out, we’re not celebrating their birthday but the day chosen to honour them as the anniversary of their martyrdom in Rome in about the year AD 64. The only saint celebrated on his birthday is John the Baptist.

Let’s hope that July 8th, the day chosen for our Patronal Festival to celebrate the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul, will be blessed by lovely sunny weather such as we’re enjoying as I write this. What a contrast to the cold snowy time we suffered at the beginning of March! Life is full of contrasts, which makes it interesting.

In our church we’ve experienced recently the joys of holy matrimony, birth and baptisms, the sorrows concomitant with illness, deaths and funerals. And although we’re still going through the difficulties that arise while we’re without a priest we’re also enjoying the variety and different churchmanship of the wonderful priests who so kindly give of their time and experience to guide us in worship.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Peter and Paul were to visit us now? They certainly had contrasting personalities and different ways of furthering Jesus’ mission to bring people to repent of their sins, to heal them and preach of God’s great love for them.

Peter knew Jesus. He’d been with him from the beginning when Jesus called him and his brother Andrew from their father’s fishing business, to follow him. He loved Jesus passionately, he was the first to declare publicly that Jesus was the Messiah, but he was rash and hot-blooded, he made mistakes, but he was chosen by Jesus to be the rock on which the church was founded. He was given the keys of heaven. Pete ‘is sometimes called the Prince of the Apostles. After Jesus finally left them Peter took over the leadership of the disciples and spent his life preaching, teaching and spreading the ‘good news’ of Jesus the Christ, and the love of God.

Paul didn’t know the earthly Jesus. We know that he started his association with the growing band of Christians after Jesus’ death in persecuting and killing them.

This changed after he heard the voice of Jesus when he was en route to Damascus. He was totally converted from persecuting, into promoting, Christianity. He considered himself to be an Apostle of Christ; his letters to the various churches he founded stress this in their greeting. He’s sometimes referred to as the Apostle of the Gentiles. This is because his ministry became centred more on the Gentiles, the non-Jews, than the Jews who wouldn’t listen to him, although Paul believed that in Christ we are all one with God. His missionary achievements were amazing. He established churches in the major cities of the Roman Empire and kept in touch with them by letter discussing theological and moral problems. These letters are invaluable to us and guide us in our Christian life today. Above all, he stressed the unfailing love of God to all.

Both Peter and Paul loved God through Jesus Christ with a ‘love stronger than death’ and both were persecuted and died for Jesus’ sake. They are jointly considered the founders of our Christian faith. If you want to see them pictured, look at the stained glass window on the south aisle of the church. You may notice something strange for St. Peter is holding a book and St. Paul the keys!

This weekend (30th June, 1st July) sees the ordination of priests and deacons. These men and women will, like Peter and Paul, have contrasting personalities and different modes of ministry, they too will experience difficulties, perhaps even afflictions, but they will all, I’m sure, be transported by an ecstatic, overwhelming love of God into giving their lives in the service of Christ.

We wish them well in their various ministries.

As Lay Readers for some years, now confronting the difficulties of being without a priest, we continue in our ministry. The ‘first fine careless rapture’ may have diminished but I think we are all firmly in love with God through Jesus Christ and, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, seek to continue to serve him faithfully.

Gillian Hurst