Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Westgate Church Robbed During Sunday Service

How low can criminals sink here in Thanet? Thieves have stolen £200 of collection money from the sacristy at the rear of St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Westgate while a service was in progress.

Police are seeking witnesses to the theft, which took place between 10.50am and 11.10am on Sunday.

Detectives wish to trace a man and a woman seen hanging around at the back of the church just before the discovery of the theft.

The man is white, in his late teens, 5ft 9in, of slim build with fair hair. He was wearing a fawn shirt and fawn trousers.

The woman is white, about 5ft 7in, with fair hair and was wearing a light-coloured blouse and jeans.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact police on 01843 222178.


Anonymous said...

As a parishoner, I have no objection to the needy helping themselves. 'Blessed are the poor?"

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that I cannot agree with you, these days social services are there to help the needy which they do with our tax money.
Anyone who steals from the church - or anyone else come to that- is scum.
It is not true to say that God helps those who help themselves - in this context.
I suppose the thieves thought the change would do them good?

And the word poor in the original translation of the gospels actually should have been translated as bald.
So - blessed are the bald for they shall inherit the earth


Seriously though - its bad to steal from the church, I have been told that on the doors of Westminster Abbey are the skins of several thieves who tried to steal from that church many centuries ago.
I don't know if its true.

Rev Erasmus Mushybrain said...

'Once a thief, always a thief' is an old English proverb. The way of the world, or, at least, of our popular press, is to believe that people and communities have certain deep set character traits and you should deal with them on this basis. If a person has been convicted for theft or paedophilia, or drug dealing, or prostitution, or fraud, that is something that should never be expunged from the record because there is no possibility of fundamental reform.

It seems that one of the most cherished beliefs we have about each other is that we cannot and do not fundamentally change. However, one of the most cherished beliefs of Christianity, which distinguishes it from all the other major world religions, is that we can and must fundamentally change.

In much of our legal and prison system, as people have become less familiar with the Christian faith, the commitment to reform rather than to punishment has all but disappeared. The press is quick to divide people into 'good' and 'bad' types. The bad must be locked up to protect the good: once a person has been identified as 'bad' that is how they will be for the rest of their life. Remember the outcry against giving the two boys who killed two-year old Jamie Bulger new identities and a fresh start in life.

The Christian faith teaches that we all treat each other badly. For some of us this may be more obvious than others, but all of us, in various ways, do things which are damaging to other people and of which we are, or ought to be, ashamed. Human beings have the capacity for the most glorious acts of love and creativity - that is, we are made in the image of God - but all too often we break the trust of those who love us and our creativity descends into exploitation and greed. We wound the love of those who love us and we obscure the image of the good that is in us. Human beings have the glorious capacity to love and all too often we end up wrecking not only our environment but ourselves and each other. Luther talked of the heart turned in on itself'; the self-consuming heart.

Christianity teaches that this self-destructive cycle, this bondage of the soul, can and must be broken, and if it is broken it is possible to make a completely new start in life. Our very human nature can be changed so that the image of God within us is no longer obscured, but shines out in a transformed life. This is what Paul is talking about in our second reading, from the second letter to the Corinthians. It is this fundamental conviction which makes the Christian good news so shocking to those who have a completely different understanding about how the world works.

Paul sees this life-transforming good news as precisely what his own people, the Jews, need to hear. Many of the Christians in Corinth must have been Jews like Paul. In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that when Paul was in Corinth he stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, both Jews who had been expelled by Claudius from Rome, and we know that both of them became Christians. Paul preached every sabbath in the synagogue, with the result that a number of the Jews, including the leader of the synagogue, and all his household, became Christians and were baptized (Acts 18:8). But there was trouble. Paul was driven out of the synagogue and brought before Gallio the Roman governor, who refused to take any interest in what he saw as merely a squabble amongst the Jews.

In the passage from the second letter to the Corinthians that we heard this morning, we can hear Paul reminding the Corinthian Christians of the good news he had brought them. He alludes to a story they would have known well, the story we heard as our first lesson, of Moses going up Mount Sinai, entering the cloud of the glory of the Lord, and receiving from God the tablets of law: but, even more, he has in mind a second version of the same story which tells how when Moses met with God - 'face to face, as a man speaks to his friend' - the skin of his face shone, because he had been talking with God (Ex 34:29). From the time that this began to happen, Moses put a veil over his face until he went back to speak with God again, which he did 'face to face', with no veil.

Paul takes this idea and turns it around. He suggests, presumably from his experience preaching in the synagogue, that it is the Jews who have a veil over their minds when they read the Scriptures - so they cannot see the glory of the Lord, which shines out of the face of Jesus Christ. He wants to tell them, yet again, that 'It is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Cor 4:6). But the Jews whom he knows and loves, and amongst whom he had first learnt of God's covenant love for Israel, as Paul sees it, read the Scriptures with a veil over their hearts, so that the real glory of God, which is to be seen in the face of Jesus Christ, is hidden from them. 'But when a man turns to the Lord', he says, 'the veil is removed' and by 'the Lord', it is clear he means Jesus Christ, known through the power of his spirit.

The climax of his argument is this: 'Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit' (2 Cor 3:17-18). Paul's good news is that each one of us can be like Moses: we can meet God face to face without a veil over our faces. When we meet Jesus spiritually, as Paul did on the Damascus road, we meet God. Looking at Jesus is like seeing a reflection of the God whom we can't see. And Jesus is the image of what we, each one of us, are created to be. By looking at Jesus we are spiritually changed. To hold his gaze spiritually, as it were, is to emerge from the dark shadows of our human situation into the glorious light of God. This change, from start to finish, is made possible by God.

Paul believes in real change. He doesn't think the Jewish people, and he doesn't think non-Jews, are a lost cause. He thinks anybody can be fundamentally changed by meeting Jesus Christ as he did on the road to Damascus, and after that we can go on being changed, from glory to glory, into the image of Jesus Christ himself. Hence his encouragement to each one of us to let ourselves be changed, as he puts it, 'from glory to glory'. Paul invites us to open ourselves to the power of God's transforming spirit and to spend time 'face to face' with Jesus as Moses did with God on the mountaintop.

For many people in our society this doesn't make sense. It is too religious, too simple, too old-fashioned, too counter-cultural. We live in a world which thinks it knows about Christianity and has moved on to something better. If there is something better I would be fascinated to know what it is - for I know of no other philosophy or religion which offers to anyone, no matter who they are or what they have done, a radical change of heart and daily support in leading a completely new life dedicated to the ways of reconciliation and peace. Why is it, I wonder, that this veil lies over the minds and the hearts of the opinion-formers in our society? Paul's answer is clear: The god of this world [that is, the 'god' of those things we idolise in this world: money, sex and power] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God' (2 Cor 4:4). On the other hand, 'If anyone is in Christ, there is a completely new creation: everything old has passed away: see everything has become new!' (2 Cor 5:17). 'Once a thief; always a thief' may indeed be a well known proverb. The gospel version is radically different: 'Once a thief - but now a Christian'.

James Maskell said...

Im not particularly religious (I did once truly believe, but no longer). I must disagree with the point about social services. As someone who benefitted through a second chance at life through Social Services, I have a certain respect for it. Social Services has a bad reputation. I am, as it were, a success story. Were it not for Social Services I could quite easily be one of the criminals which we comment about on these pages. I think some people here are too hard on Social Services.

Ive not read all the way through the most recent post (its a long read!) but I will reply soon. Ive not had a theological argument for some time!

Crime is wrong and no-one should see it as a good thing. That is theft and I hope they are tracked down, dragged to the nearest court and have the book thrown at them. Thats a horrible thing to do, and cannot be justified.

Snailspace said...

I'm not a religious person but I respect the beleif of others, and to steal from any Church is the absolute pits.

Anonymous said...

anon again!
dunno who they are, but God does... listen to all that Thunder and look at all those lightning flashes.... he's after you thieves, may you perish in.... wherever.... Thanet?

Anonymous said...

The collection at a mass is for the upkeep of the church? priests stipend? contribution to diocese? Father John Slater is probably disappointed but forgiving; if not he ought to be. A double contribution next week and prayers for the thieves might be in order.