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Given on 22nd June 2023 for the Diamond Jubilee of Church of the Good Shepherd, Nottingham. 

On 23rd July 1964, Bishop Edward Ellis opened the new Good Shepherd Church. We thank God for sixty years of blessings poured out on the parishioners and priests of the parish as they have given glory to God since 1929.

The local people must have discussed at great length, and voiced strong opinions, about the design of the new church which was being built on Thackeray’s Lane. The stunning white concrete would have shone out like a beacon, perhaps like the temple of King Herod which Josephus describes in the following way: ‘Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men's minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendour, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were coming to it at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.’ (Josephus, chapter 5). The cross on the top of the spire was lowered into place by a helicopter and symbolises the victory of Christ the Good Shepherd which is celebrated in this Church. Now somewhat worn down by weather, and smudged by sixty years of car fumes, the building looks well lived in. Perhaps like our own baptismal garments, which once shone brightly when we were newly baptised but now bear the grubbiness of life, the constant restoration of the building is a reminder that we always stand in need of repair and conversion by God’s grace. 

Fr Bernard Mooney, the parish priest, was bold and creative in the design of the Church. Inspired by the work of Gerard Goalen’s church of Our Lady of Fatima in Harlow, he commissioned Goalen to design the new Church. Goalen was influenced by the design of churches on the Continent, which included the works of Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret. They had pioneered the new brutalist style of exposed concrete, strengthened by steel, and vivid stained glass through which would shine the glory of God. He combined his gifts with the genius of Patrick Reyntiens’ bold style of the Dalle-de-Verre window of the Five Precious Wounds.  Goalen was also influenced by the newly emerging ideas of the Liturgical Movement in Europe which sought to develop the 'functionality' of the liturgy, where priests and people worshipped together, leading to active participation and social action. 

Fr Mooney wanted the architect ‘to provide a large church – to accommodate 600 people – which would have the intimate atmosphere usually associated with a small chapel, and in which the congregation could fully participate in the liturgy’[1]. Goalen said later, 'I have tried to produce a building… which recalls something of the intimacy of the Last Supper.' A few years ahead of the liturgical changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council and the encouragement of a ‘noble simplicity’, the church was ready for the changes which would arrive. 

Today in this church, we celebrate the sixty years of God’s holy people giving glory to God. A parish is made up of its families. Families have gathered here in times of joy and sorrow; baptisms, sacraments, marriages and with sadness for the funerals of loved ones. This evening we remember those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. People have gathered for the great feasts, and in the daily prayer of Mass, other devotions and private prayer. The walls could tell many stories of people pouring out their souls to Jesus Christ and Our Blessed Lady. The window of the Five Precious Wounds will have delighted children who have glimpsed the vivid light streaming through the window and offered the hope of Christ’s cross to those who suffer and are in pain. It is here that we come to worship in spirit and in truth. People have celebrated the sacraments and been nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4). This is the living water which he gives to us freely and abundantly in the sacraments. 

The Letter to the Hebrews presents the hope of heaven where the angels gather with the whole Church before the throne of the Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice reconciles us with the Father and brings us to our eternal home with God himself. The splendour of the window of the Five Precious Wounds constantly reminds us that Christ has poured out his blood on the cross that we may be saved and become his friends.

This anniversary is not only a celebration of the past. More importantly, it is an opportunity to commit to the future and think towards the life of the parish in the next sixty years. The power of parish life is the family. It is in the home that the first seeds of faith are sown and nurtured by the family. It is in the family that we first learn to become disciples of Jesus. If I think back to growing up in St Thomas More parish in Leicester, it was my family and grandparents who fostered by faith, the school and parish who nurtured it and the wisdom of the parish priest who deepened it. The parish is always a home to which we can return. As Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel, ‘The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach.’ (EG 28). This is a wonderful description of a vibrant parish focused on Jesus Christ.

We are each invited to hear anew the call of God in our hearts, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?’ We each have a part to play in the renewal of the parish which reaches out to others and tells them of the triumph of Jesus Christ who waits to meet them. This is our mission – to be a Church that goes forth. May we each say with Isaiah, ‘Here I am, send me’.  

Bishop John Sherrington