Brother Angelo


On Sunday I found myself worshipping in York Minster. Bizarrely it was the second time in under a fortnight that I was served communion by an Archbishop! But that’s another story.

The most significant person I met that morning – apart from Christ in the Eucharist – was not Archbishop SENTAMU but an old man called Angelo.

In a packed congregation of hundreds I found myself sitting next to an old man who turned about to be Italian but who had lived in York for many years.

In the few moments before the service Angelo and I ended up chatting and I asked why a Roman Catholic Italian was attending a Protestant service in York Minster?

He shared his testimony of how many years ago he had been far from God but was still attending Catholic church from time to time.

One Christmas his Catholic church in York was closed as the heating system had broken down. So he went to a Christmas service at the Minster.

At that service he encountered God in a new and life-changing way and since that day he has attended evensong each day.

He spoke of how he now knew that ‘labels’ mean nothing and that we all worship the same Jesus Christ.

I was then able to share with him my testimony of serving the French Catholic church as a Protestant Evangelical missionary for 14 years.

We embraced as brothers.

That felt like a ‘God-moment’ to me, like God was reminding me of how He has done something in Sharon and my hearts and lives which has opened us up to the ecumenical imperative of John 17;

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,

that all of them may be one (John 17:20, NIV)

I’m not that sure what this encounter ‘means’.

But I think it was at least a reminder to Sharon and I that in our hearts God has put a deep love for our Catholic brothers and sisters and of all the other ‘sheep that are of a different sheep-fold’.

I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold (John 10:16, NLT)

As we approach the end of this ministry in Leicester, whatever we do, and wherever we go, we will do and go as people who embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of their spiritual tradition.


The Spirituality of Unfamiliar Paths


“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
(Isaiah 42:16 NIV)

Rule 1 – God leads the ‘blind’:
Because only the ‘blind’ will allow themselves to be led, are aware of their need for guidance (humility).

However, the stark reality is that we are all ‘blind’!

We cannot naturally perceive what God is doing or comprehend how he is doing it. Any attempt we make to ‘second guess’ God is futile. We can NEVER predict how he is going to achieve his objective. Sometimes not even AFTER he has revealed to us a glimpse of what that objective is.

Think a little about Moses. When did it become clear what God was doing in his life?

• When he was abandoned as a baby?
• When he was adopted into the Egyptian royal family?
• When this Jewish boy was raised as a pagan prince?
• When he become a murderer?
• When he fled for his life into the desert?
• Whilst he worked as a shepherd for 40 years?

Just exactly when did it become obvious to those who saw his life unfolding, that God would use this man to lead a nation out of captivity!?

Do you get the point? God’s almost always indecipherable from a human perspective.

If you think Moses is a special case, just consider St. Paul – A fanatical Jew, with a burning hatred of Christians who God would use to take the gospel to the Gentiles!

Rule 2 – God mostly takes us along ‘unfamiliar paths’:
Because even the ‘blind’ can learn how to follow a set route.

And, once we think we know the way ourselves, we inevitably neglect our relationship with our guide.

We neglect the channels of communication through which God reveals himself and his ways – the Bible, prayer, the church, circumstances.

Rule 3 – God not only leads he progressively reveals:
As we journey through life with God He makes the dark places light.

God allows us to increasingly perceive the spiritual realities of what we are going through.

But this has to be balanced with our tendency to grow confident when we think we know the way.

Thus those who feel most their own weakness and who are humble, often have the deepest spiritual perception (it’s safe for God to give it to them).

In Paul’s case God had to give him compensatory suffering to prevent the revelations he had received leading to pride (see 2 Cor 12:7).

Rule 4 – God not only knows the way, he prepares the way:
God promises to make the rough places smooth.

God does not call us to walk along any path that he has not prepared for us to travel.

As before the smoothness of the path has to be balanced with our tendency to grow confident in our ability to negotiate it ourselves. But this preparation of our paths by God allows us to be confident, and to have faith.

Rule 5 – God promises to do this for us and to be with us:
We finish where we started – the relationship is the fundamental basis of everything.

We have God’s promise that any break in the relationship will not be instigated by him.

He is forever committed to leading and guiding us.


My friend’s book explores this reality in a deeper way and in the light of his own experience of discovering God at work in the Roman Catholic world – something that as a young evangelical missionary he never even suspected. He also recounts his attempt to shape his ministry around this new realisation. Which is further developed in the follow-up book we co-authored.