Taking stock, moving on
The Rectory - September 2003
It has been a long summer! We spend a lot of our time discussing the weather. I think Mpume, our guest from South Africa, finds it amusing how often she still has to comment on how she finds our climate, even when we have been basking in temperatures that are at least equivalent to those in Durban for long stretches of July and August. The difference of course is that we never believe that we have summers like this, so nothing in our society is geared up to dealing with them when they do happen - people collapse, rails buckle, ice cream runs out, we all come to a grinding halt, as we do when it snows, or rains a lot or the leaves of autumn fall!
But actually the world does continue to turn, and life goes on. People have suffered enormously in parts of Europe as a result of the heatwave, and the French Government is having to undertake a major enquiry to find out why so many thousands of people died. The peace process in the Holy Land appears to be foundering again. Disaster hit the United Nations Mission in Iraq, whilst the Hutton enquiry has gathered pace following the tragic suicide of Dr David Kelly. The situation in Liberia worked itself to a climax as its president went into exile, and there is some hope of peace being built there, with troops from neighbouring African countries seeking to keep the peace. And within church circles, the debate following the appointment of an openly homosexual bishop in New Hampshire, USA, and the proposed appointment of Jeffrey John to be Bishop of Reading, has continued unabated, causing many people to ask searching questions of themselves as well as of the Church. Alongside that, news came in of the murder of six members of the Melanesian Brotherhood, a religious order that has been much involved in negotiating for peace in the civil unrest in the Solomon Islands.
Questions of perspectives and priorities, perhaps? It is always demanding, and sometimes a little painful to try to keep our eyes wide open to the broader vision. It is easy for us to look for escape from the realities, and perhaps too often our Christian life and worship lead us away from those realities rather than equipping us with fresh vision and vigour to play our part in addressing the world’s issues at whatever level we are able.
I believe that our parish is rooted in the life of the city. We are constantly seeking as a community to ask the question ‘How does our faith help us to serve the city and our world more effectively?’ If we are not doing that, all of us, then we are in danger of introversion, looking after ourselves - which seems to be the opposite of the life of Jesus.
As we move into the autumn, and another new chapter in our life, I want very much to encourage everyone to reflect on how they connect with our mission. We are making some alterations to the structures of the parish to enable wider participation in the decision-making processes. I hope that the formation of four key committees that will take key areas of our life and reflect on them and suggest new initiatives, and through which all other sub-groups and committees will work, will help us to be more focussed together, and encourage more people to be actively engaged with our work. Many people are doing that in a sacrificial way, and we will celebrate that fact together at Harvest, but I hope that more people will want to be involved in forming the vision, and not just in responding to requests for help when they occur.
On September 10, I am delighted to say we shall be interviewing three candidates to take up the post of Associate Rector, following Eileen's departure last year. This post has been deliberately upgraded from "Assistant Rector" because I really want us to develop the sense of teamwork. I am not greatly interested in hierarchies. I do not want to run or control everything that happens. I want gifted people to take responsibility in the areas in which they are gifted. No-one can do everything - or if they think they can, there will be disaster in the offing! The arrival in due course of a new priest will not be the sign for others to stand back or stand down. It will be an enrichment of an already gifted team. The wider the range of gifts, the more likely we are to be able to maintain and develop our perspectives and priorities in a truly extrovert - or perhaps even Christlike - fashion. Please pray for those with responsibility for the interviews.