One of the highlights of being on placement at St Stephens over Lent ans been the Lent course planned by the Chatham Deanery of churches. On 5 successive Wednesday evenings they managed to get a bishop to speak as follows:
Bishop James Rochester: empowering mission relevant to our society and culture
Bishop Stephen Venner: how does war enable or disable mission?
Bishop Brian Tonbridge: What can we learn about mission from other countries?
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali: Mission to those with other faiths and none
Bishop Michael Turnbull: A Church of England kind of mission.
In that collection we have two former bishops of Rochester, the current and Suffragen bishops of Rochester and the Bishop for the Armed Forces … the deanery did well at getting them together! A you would expect the quality of the speaking has been excellent and thought provoking. If there was one bishop missing, I would have liked to see Bishop Graham Cray with some title like ‘mission for new times’ … but in a way many of them approached that from their individual perspectives.
Rather than write after each bishop I have decided to wait and pull out one thought from each as I look back over Lent:
Bishop James took the text of Jeremiah 29 and challenges us to settle in the places we are called to. He implied many long to be moved from where they are and hold back … but we are encouraged by Jeremiah’s words to the exiles to put down roots and really become parts of our communities.
Bishop Stephen took a line on warfare now being very complicated and so ministry and mission being complicated to; with Jesus demanding we love our enemies as well as our friends. This could demand that Christians could be in places and positions that could be both dangerous geographically and unpopular sociologically.
Bishop Brian got us thinking about worship and mission being two sides of the same coin, asking ‘is worship mission?’ and ‘is mission worship?’ It’s a great question as many seem to concentrate on one to the detriment of others.
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali challenged us in how we balance the hospitality and embassy sides of our faith; that is how we welcome people and how we go out to people.he underlined this by reminding us that the Abrahamic call to be a blessing to others still stood! In response to some comments he reminded us that on this earth there is no God vacuum – God is everywhere and can be found everywhere!
Bishop Michael Turnbull finished the series by talking about the importance of people and their stories and that our beliefs should be seen as a framework om which our faith grows, using a plant growing on a trellis as an image. I liked this image as it showed that the plant (faith) grows around the framework (belief) in different ways and even beyond the framework leaving loose ends. To hear a mature and respected bishop say he still had ‘loose ends of faith’ or doubt but still had firm faith is pretty encouraging!
As I said it has been a good 6 Wednesday evenings which has given us loads to think about. They all challenge me but I guess most are those thoughts to put down roots, to be a blessing, and notice God is all situations are the things that spoke to me the most.