Tomorrow, with my other colleagues in the diocese, I will be renewing my commitment to service as a priest in the cathedral at the Chrism Eucharist. This year Bishop Graham Cray is preaching and so I am looking forward to that.
For the last few years this has been a special time as we have all got together, with our bishop, to pray and re-commit to serving God and the church.
This year will be no different …. it will be still be a special time … but this year I find myself frustrated as to what the church has or is becoming.
Tonight I was planning for the MSM session that I will be teaching on next week and this video clip will be used:
It brought tears to my eyes tonight because I really do believe that this is what church should be. I really do believe that this is what I was ordained to be involved in. Sadly …. I also really do believe that the institution means that the meetings, sales, buildings etc etc etc so often take a higher priority than discipleship.
I guess I’m struggling to believe tonight that anything will ever change …. and that’s hard to stomach.
Because … if church is not about making disciples, if it’s not about love and liberation ….. then why church?
But …. tomorrow … I really do want to believe that this can be church …. so I will simply pray …. Lord help my unbelief!
Yesterday I attended the diocesan gathering, Beyond the Big Society, which was an incredibly valuable day – not least for the input and challenge of Archbishop Rowan in the afternoon.
After hearing about some initiatives around the diocese which seek to transform community we heard from speakers of national, and international organisations (Stop the Traffik, Mothers Union, Housing Justice). I found much of what they presented to be a challenge and a reminder to what we are called to eb as church. All the organisations offer suport ans advice to groups of people who wish to make a difference in their community.
In the afternoon Archbishop Rowan got us thinking and asking ourselves what is different about the approach of the church. He started with a scene setting text from Revelation 3:8, ‘I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut‘.
He suggested we talk about the church being different to other groups involved in social action, and followed that with presenting a need to know what it actually is that is different, or distinctive, about us as we move towards the open door. He suggested that as church, what is distinctive about us, is that we take responsibility for each other. The church has a strong outlook of mutual nourishment where we give to each other because we have freely received.
In thinking about Big Society he suggested that a healthy and functional society enables small communities of mutual service to both be born and grow to sustainability. I was encouraged by the thought that, as church, we should be moving, luring and prodding society in this direction of mutual service … a fairly trinitarian concept … so prodding in the direction of God then!
The day today started well with the diocese New Year service with the bishop. This is a service when the diocesan staff, and those from the cathedral, join together in worship. I was encouraged and excited by Bishops James’ words in his sermon this morning. I hear words such as ‘encouraging’, ‘mission’, enabling and permission giving. Those words sugest an outlook in the diocese that give me hope – and I believe that would be the case for both parish based staff and also for pioneers.
I’m becoming quite excited about what we could achieve in this diocese as we look ahead together.
Yesterday I had the privilege of having lunch and then spending some time chatting with Farai, who is the Dean of Harare Cathedral in Zimbabwe. Farai was invited for the Bishops service on Saturday as the Diocese of Rochester has a strong link with the Diocese of Harare. We had a great time talking about pioneering work and sharing stories of mission in our very different circumstances.
If you are a reader here who prays … please hold the church of Zimbabwe in your prayers … if you need help in knowing what to pray, the Church of England website has prayers
you can use specifically.
My time with Farai has caused me to think more about what is important. Farai is a man of great joy who is full of Christ filled enthusiasm. Sometimes I wonder whether we in thew west have allowed ourselves to lose that joy and enthusiasm as we get embroiled in unimportant pettiness.
The service on Saturday to install Bishop james was a pretty special time. The symbolism was quite powerful … knocking on the door to be allowed in, being anointed in the nave by others in the diocese, picking up his crozier from the High Altar – all powerful moments in the service. There is a report from the BBC here.
During his sermon Bishop James said some interesting things. He spoke a little about the hard times and the temptation, or saying, ‘to help your own’ in such times. He outlined how it is easy to become ‘closed handed’ at such times while we hold on to what we have. Instead, Bishop James suggested that at times like this we really did need to be ‘open handed’ and enthusiastic in our generosity as God is enthusiastic is his generosity.
He ended by talking about statements that dioceses like to make about themselves in mission statements etc. He ended by saying:
‘The Diocese of Rochester; a generous people …. but only if we mean it!’
I like this thinking and look forward in hope and longing to being a part of a generous diocese that is exuberant in its generosity to those in our communities … so that people can really have life, and life to the full! (John 10:10)