Beyond the structures
Locally and worldwide
I am writing this on the eve of leaving for South Africa [end of September 2004], where I have been invited to lead the Diocesan Clergy Retreat for our Companion Link Diocese of Natal. It is quite a challenge, but also an enormous privilege to be doing this, and I still have an enormous amount of work to do before I shall feel properly prepared for it.
There is a great deal of attention being paid at the moment to how we order our life as a church in the city and in our diocese. It seems to have become almost all-encompassing for me at the moment, because the development of the Deanery Strategy of building far greater collaboration between all the congregations of the deanery has a particular focus on our continuing discussions in the city centre, and on a new strategy for ministry in Radford - which begins to find ways of sharing our resources for ministry across the cluster, of which St Peter’s & All Saints’ is a part. So, if I am not careful, I will begin to drown in structures and admin and meetings about both. So my trip to Natal is a welcome opportunity to remind myself not only that life exists outside the centre of Nottingham, but also that the church all over the world, in so many different contexts, is energetically getting on with the task of witnessing to God’s gratuitous love for all people. I know that, hard work as it may be preparing for the trip, I will return from Durban energised and refreshed by new insights from our sister and brother Anglicans in South Africa. It will help me not to lose sight of the real task to which we are all called.
The Church of England has never been a very good member of the Anglican Communion. It has never really found it easy to mature from its historical role of being the ‘mother’ church, and I often encounter disinterest, boredom and worst of all, a sort of patronising superiority when discussing the experience of the world church with English Anglicans. The sadness is that many Anglicans in other parts sense all of that and become torn between their genuine affection for and loyalty to the English roots and an inevitable irritation, even anger that we should continue to behave as we do.
Well, as the PCC already knows, we have the opportunity next June to reach out and give a genuinely warm and generous welcome to Anglicans from all over the world, when the Anglican Consultative Council will meet at Nottingham University, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and will hold their major mid-conference service at St Mary’s, on Sunday 26 June. Their opening service will be at St Peter’s the previous Sunday, and through the medium of the Petertide Festival promoted by St Peter’s will be able through the month of June to ‘Celebrate One City, One World’. More in due course about all of this, and probably about my trip to Natal as well; but I hope that with all is going on here we won’t forget the one world to which we all belong.