A sermon preached By David Jones on the occasion
of the Centenary of the Birth of
The Revd Canon Gervase Markham,
founder of the Morland Choristers' Camps,
at a special Evensong to celebrate that Centenary,
with a large congregation of past and present members of Camp,
along with many parents, friends and supporters.

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Mark 10 v 45: 'For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.''Gervase as in service.' So said Canon Markham in one of my very earliest conversations with him, 34 years ago. He was anxious that I should pronounce his name correctly, but he also provided a text for today.What do we mean by 'service'? I'm not thinking about church services. That's something slightly different. I am thinking about doing things for other people with no particular thought about what you would get back. Why are we all here today? Because one man back in 1970 was keen to share his enthusiasm for Jesus Christ and for music with as many people as he could. Ever since his work teaching in Palestine before the 2WW he had tried to share his faith with youngsters, and if we accept that it is (or was) easier to attract girls than boys, he particularly tried to find ways of making contact with boys. Hence the idea of 'camping'.The very fact that we are all here today, men and women, boys and girls, shows how triumphantly successful he was. Of course, somebody of such a forceful character and with such clear aims was not going to see eye to eye with everybody. He himself acknowledged that he was a product of his time, and that he'd been taught to say exactly what he thought. Inevitably, some were offended.Perhaps we, in wanting to learn from him and in wanting to carry on the traditions he established, might also learn from his mistakes - and he was the first to acknowledge mistakes.So what can we learn from Gervase? We can't all go and start a Choir Camp (though I have to admit that it is unlikely that the series of events we run every summer would ever have got started if it hadn't been for what he did. When I first said to him that I was going to start a Folk Dance Week, he asked what I was going to call it. I said: 'The Morland Folk Dance Week', and he commented, '….adding to the notoriety of Morland.' I'm sure most of you can hear him saying it!)There were no doubt people in the parish who thought that their Vicar spent far too much time working on Camp and too little on the parish. We all have to decide what matters most to us. There is not time to do all the things we'd like to do. And whatever we decide is going to leave somebody else out. (And he had only three parishes to look after!)We have all been given talents and abilities. We have all been given help, encouragement and guidance by people who want us to do well, to make the most of those talents and abilities. I suspect that we would not be here today if we did not recognise this, and we are very thankful for it.But 'from everyone to whom much is given, much will be required'. That's another reading that I might have chosen for today. Luke chapter 12 v 48. (Repeat)If we have been the beneficiaries of others before us (many people, not just Gervase), then we are taught that it is our business to share what we have with others, without any thought of what we might get back in return. It's easy for me to say that. I'm old and have nothing to prove. It doesn't much matter to me if people think I'm a little odd. I've arrived at a point in life where I think I can decide what's best in my particular situation. I hope that I make decisions like that on the basis of what I've learned over a lot of years from experience, from people, and of course from Sunday School, church and bible. I'll share my enthusiasms with anybody who will listen!I know that for lots of younger people it is not so easy. It may be that some of you avoid telling your school friends how you spend eight days of your precious summer holiday. After all, even in talking to people who might be sympathetic and understanding, I find it difficult to say exactly what we get up to at Camp. Singing all morning and evening. Building dams in becks. Running around shooting each other with water pistols. Even those who have experience of other Summer Schools struggle to follow what I'm being so enthusiastic about.I do realise that for some it is not 'cool' to show enthusiasm for anything. If in your class at school you want to share your enthusiasm, I realise that you have to do it with care. I realise that you don't want to find yourself with nobody to talk to. Over the years, I have known just a few who were so certain of themselves that they were willing to go it alone. But nobody pretends that that is easy.I'd like to offer some suggestions to those of you who feel pressurised by your peers, who feel the need to be 'cool', to fit in and not stand out too much.I repeat what I said just now. I know it is not easy. But you know what you are good at. You know that there are things you are keen on. If you are really sure of that, that's a start. I don't suppose that you are going to start shouting from the rooftops, but if you gently let it be known that you like doing whatever it is, if you take opportunities as they come up, rather than forcing your ideas into a conversation where they don't belong, you might gradually find other people with the same interests. Perhaps they were frightened to mention them. When you find out that you are not on your own, it all becomes much easier. I would add: the first time is the hardest. When you've done it once, it really does get easier. You find it easier to know what to say and when to say it.And of course, you are never on your own, even when you think you are. I expect you know the footprints-in-the-sand story. One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there was one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
"You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
were you not there for me?"
The Lord replied,
"The times when you saw
only one set of footprints,
are the times when I carried you." Some of us have found out how very true that story is. Perhaps some of you have yet to find out. Find a quiet place. It might be in a corner somewhere. It might be in a church which is open for you to come in at any time. It might be out on the hills. It might be in your bed at night. Share your worries with Jesus. Then try to let your mind be quiet and listen. You might hear words. You might hear nothing. You might suddenly discover a new calmness and your worries have gone away. You might find ideas popping into your head and you don't quite know where they've come from.I do believe that the Holy Spirit, the mind of God, can talk to us in this way. We just have to listen.Perhaps I should say to the younger people here that some of us older ones might sometimes seem very certain and confident about things. It's not always true! I was listening the other day to a radio programme about Winston Churchill. He was our Prime Minister during the 2WW, and he gave us great leadership and confident speeches. We know now that he didn't always feel as confident as he sounded. But he was able to give us what we needed, and we were able to defend our freedom.So my message here is that all of us, young and old, need to talk with Jesus at times, and the more we do it, the easier it becomes. He really is there to help.There's another thing that becomes more obvious the older we get. Certain people - teachers, neighbours, friends, vicars - you never know who it will be - are the ones who have filled us with enthusiasm for whatever it is. I can look back and wonder whether, if I had had a different Maths teacher or a different English teacher, I'd have been more interested in those subjects. Or indeed if I had had a different Music teacher I might have been put off Music for ever. Almost all of the Camp staff have themselves come up through Camp. They want to share all that they have gained from Camp. All of us, once we get to be Team Captain or Junior Leader, are having an influence on younger people. We need to be very sure that it is an influence for good. We need to realise the responsibility that we have. We all need to pray for guidance. None of us can do it by ourselves. But if we ask for guidance, I promise you it will come. It might not always be what we expect. We'll have to be ready to follow what God asks us. Who knows where it will lead? That's wrong: God knows where it will lead!We are all here today because of who Gervase Markham was and what he did. Let us pray that we in our turn will be enabled to pass on to others what we have learned from him and from everybody who we have valued and respected.Let us pray:Teach us, good Lord,
to serve thee as thou deservest;
To give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labour, and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do thy will. Amen