No going back
The Rectory - December 2004
I guess it is OK to wish you all a Happy New Year, what with Advent being the beginning of the liturgical year and all that. And it is not a bad season to be making New Year's Resolutions in either, as we draw near to Christmas and the celebration of thze Word of God made human. The extraordinary claims that we make about the birth of Jesus are so earth shattering that we really should spend this period of nearly four weeks reflecting very carefully on how the Good News of Christmas makes a difference to our lives and our Christian journey. Sometimes - perhaps always - it seems that this completely transforming moment in the life of creation has been completely domesticated. And the key for so many people to a happy Christmas is that we feel good as a result. But of course! To kneel at the manger in homage to a newborn king who will turn the world and its values upside down should feel good. But actually that is not what most of us are expecting. Far from upheaval, we look for stability, the absolutely familiar. Well, we no longer follow the Prayer Book tradition of Advent reflection on Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. Perhaps we should. Perhaps then we could recapture something of the awesomeness of the Christmas event.
But as we begin this year, of all years, in the life of our two parishes, I do have to ask you to join me in prayer and reflection on our future. We are now into a process of exploration together from which there is no going back. We are being asked to walk into the unknown, to dream dreams, to ask questions together about how we may be a more effective force for good in our city centre, together with other church communities, and indeed with people of other faiths and none. We do want to build on strengths that both churches have, so that each may find the best and most appropriate role especially given their very different geographical locations.
I know that stories are beginning to circulate, and as usual they are more rumour than fact. So let me outline for you what I think is happening and what is not happening.
What I can say is this:
The PCCs in their meeting were absolutely clear that the driving force for any changes we propose must be mission. We are in a context where mission must be the primary purpose for our continuing presence. The challenge to us is to identify how we can use the resources we have most effectively for that mission.
I know that people are getting worried, and wondering what is going on. I can only say to you all this really is nothing to get worried about! We are committing ourselves to something which could, if we all pull together, be the beginning of an extraordinarily exciting new chapter in the life and history of our two ancient parishes.