Preaching for Ruth Innes

Was out of town preaching Ruth Innes into Falkirk at her induction at Christchurch.

Here’s something of what I had to say:

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Liberator. Amen.

So, the prophet Isaiah went into the temple and saw this great vision. The Lord on a throne. Seraphs with six wings. The house full of smoke. The whole house of God shaking. And there he received his call.

But what was Isaiah like?

Did he know any good jokes.

Was he someone with drive and zeal.

Above all, did the Prophet Isaiah have purple hair?

Scripture leaves so many details to our imagination and colour of Isaiah’s hair is something, this side of heaven, that we will never know.

But the thing is, Isaiah knew that he had been called and not only called but called to do something and having been called, he immediately seems to have got on with it.

Ruth tonight is one of those moments for you. You come here into the house of God. The Lord of heaven and earth is here in this place and his train fills this temple for the prayers of God’s people have resounded from these walls for decades before your time here. And you are surrounded by angels. They may not have the number of wings that you expect, but if you look around you tonight, you will see that God has sent his angels and they each bear on their lips the same question that Isaiah was faced with.

Whom shall I send and who will go for us?

Whom shall we choose and who will lead the little flock in this place?

And it seems that those who have had the responsibility for choosing a new Rector for this place have a hunch that you’ll do. And it seems as though, by answering this call, you have a hunch that this is right place for your ministry now too.

Those two hunches, tried and tested with a bit of Episcopal wisdom and fanned into flame with your beloved Dean’s generous encouragement add up to something which the church finds easy to name. This next step on your journey, this next resting place on the road is something that we can only call vocation.

For tonight, we recognise the call that has been made to you to uproot, set off and come here to settle in this place and amongst these people. Tonight having heard that call clear and holy, you get to answer it yourself in a few moments.

And having brought us all here tonight from near and far, can I give you a strong hint that the answer needs to be Yes.

Ruth. These are the things that I know about you.

You love God.

You are funny.

You are passionate.

You are a good friend.

You pray and can teach others to pray.

You help people discover God’s holiness.

You will defend your little flock against all comers.

You have a zeal for justice and its absence makes you act.

You have purple hair.

You have an astonishing passion for the Scottish Episcopal Church.

And you have met God and known God and loved God in the sacrament that soon you will share with others at the altar in this church.

On this day in the year, 8 October, the church that you love keeps a commemoration. Well, I say that though its one of those commemorations which most people commemorate by forgetting all about it.

Ruth you are someone for whom the company of the saints is very real. Your devotion to them is strong.

And on this day, in the calendar of the church hat you love, the Scottish Episcopal Church remembers someone called Alexander Penrose Forbes.

My guess is, Ruth, that your devotion to Bishop Forbe’s memory is not that strong. Not yet anyway. But he is worth remembering. For he is someone who fought hard for something which you hold dear.

Alexander Penrose Forbes suffered a great deal of persecution from within and without our church for standing up for a doctrine which we would now find unsurprising, generally uncontroversial and something which has nourished your own faith well.

It was Alexander Penrose Forbes who promoted the idea of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. That Christ is really and truly here when the bread is broken and the wine is poured out.

In his day he suffered much for promoting that view. He endured harsh words and harsh judgements for promoting that doctrine which has nourished you. It was once something that divided Anglicans terribly yet somehow we managed to find that we could live in the same communion with different views about the Real Presence.

These days in our Anglican churches, our divisions are different.

And these days our true task is not simply to learn to recognise the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist. Our more fundamental task is to recognise the real presence of God in one another. Even those with whom we disagree with about things which seem so utterly divisive and fundamental today.

Ruth, you take sides in debates. You’re own friendship and support for your gay colleagues through these terrible bitter years bears the hallmarks of your own inner generosity of spirit and passion for justice which those who live here are about to encounter – coupled with a smile and a laugh and good humour which seems irrepressible.

But none of us must forget that the Real Presence of God lives in those with whom we disagree just as much as in those who share our own predilections and prejudices.

Ruth. The real presence of God is here in this place in Christchurch, Falkirk. God’s train fills this temple. The real presence of God is in those who will be entrusted to your care. The real presence of God lives within you and within those who you love with a passion and those whom you love through gritted teeth too.

And in the real presence of God, you have some questions to answer now. Questions which will be on Bishop Brian’s lips and are reflected in the eyes of everyone I’m looking out at now.

Whom shall we send and who will go for us.

And the people of Christchurch Falkirk will be unusually, and particularly, and generously and wonderfully blessed, if you should choose to answer that question with a resounding yes.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


  1. Tracey says

    I love Ruth!
    I met Ruth at St Peter’s Linlithgow… she made a huge impression on me, and… taught me to pray. She taught me the George McLeod/Iona Community prayer, and all these years later, it still sticks in my head and my heart.

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