Reader's letter - February 2004
“I have to tell you that you've drawn the short straw” she said. “We want you to write the Letter for the February magazine. “Well that's alright” I thought, and said. But then as the days slid by, what was I to write about? New Year's greetings are distinctly “old hat” now (though even at this late stage I do send mine to you all). Christmas is done and dusted for another year, even if some of the public decorations have yet to be taken down.
I have just finished reading Ellen McArthur's book “Taking on the world”. Just in case you don't remember, she is the young sailor who came second in the round-the-world single-handed race a couple of years ago. A tremendous achievement for her and her team. She was and is clearly driven by a single-minded dedication to her sport and to the goals she sets for herself, and she tells the story well. It was a fascinating and often exciting read and yet a somewhat disquieting one, a story that left me less than satisfied. Perhaps it is the very nature of the solitariness of the “single-hander” that I found harder to relate to than I expected, for even though I have done a little very gentle inland water solo sailing I prefer to be with and involved with others.
And that leads me to another brief exchange, this time with a St John's College student who asked me what I felt was special or different about being a Reader. There was no time to think that one through, circumstances demanded an instant reply. I think it is essentially the sense of being involved with others in the joint and multi-faceted nature of ministry within the church and Christian community that makes it special for me. A Reader takes part in ministry in many ways but always in a supporting (and I hope a supportive) role. There is an enormous privilege in helping in this ministry, whether “up front” at services or in quieter and more personal roles, that I find gives me both pleasure and a real sense of useful service to others. But what I feel to be special is my involvement with the developing ministry of the church and its community, and this has been so wherever I have had this privilege: in Kenya, then at Stapleford, and now here in central Nottingham.
In our parish we are now at a point where the continuing development and growth of our ministry is under examination as we consider the funding of our total mission to all around us. We are asking everyone in our Parish community to join in this vital process, not only because we do all belong to that community, but also because the future of our mission to Nottingham and beyond is very much in our hands.
Back, then, to Ellen McArthur. She declares at the end of her book that her achievements were the result of the inspiration she derived from her grandmother to seek to achieve her goals, and the combined efforts of her team who prepared her and her boats for her races and supported her in all she was trying to do. We are also a team. We belong to one another in our work as a Christian and church family. We need each other if we are to achieve our hopes and aims as we take forward the message and tasks that God has given us. He is our inspiration, and he will help us as we seek to do his work in the world around us.