Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 07/05/2020
Hello everyone. I hope you are all keeping well. A different position in the garden today. I thought you’d like to see the wisteria, which is rather lovely.
This week we would have been celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE day. Many of us have been inspired by the actions of Captain (now Colonel) Tom Moore and his magnificent efforts to raise money.He represents a generation marked by perseverance and grit as they faced a crisis. They were extraordinary but they were led by a great leader, Winston Churchill, through those terrible 6 years.
He was a remarkable man.He had huge intelligence, but could communicate clearly and succinctly (preachers take note!). He could inspire, but without descending to emotional manipulation. He was someone who didn’t care about the opinions of others and therefore said and did the right thing even if it was unpopular. Alongside that of course, he had a number of vices. He had a dry wit that easily crossed the line into cruelty. What was so incredible was exercising leadership whilst grappling with recurrent bouts of depression, what he described as his black dog.
There’s no doubt that this COVID crisis is presenting us with unprecedented challenges. Even as the lockdown is eased, we will be moving into a different world.Culture and values will shift against a backdrop of even worse austerity as we rebuild financially. We need to think seriously together about what our church is going to look like to rise to these challenges. We’ll need to learn from the experiences of social isolation.Some thought the closure of our buildings was a complete disaster, but we now know that 25% of the population has watched an online or TV service in the last few weeks. We are connecting in new ways and that is something we mustn’t lose.
All Anglican ministers at their ordination are challenged to help the church proclaim afresh the faith to each generation. There is something unchanging at the core of our faith, but as someone once said, “Its always being forwarded to a new address.”
There are some fundamental principles, borne out by research, that will need to be our guide. Research and experience tell us that the churches that thrive in any transition are marked by three things, conviction, clarity and compassion.
Conviction is holding on to the Hebrews 11: 1 understanding of faith, “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Its not about us all becoming fundamentalists. In my previous diocese churches of every tradition grew. But it is about faith and the values that flow from it driving our decision making, rather than our own preferences.
Clarity is about knowing what we are here for. Our diocesan strapline expresses it rather well, “proclaiming Christ and making disciples. Everything else flows from that. I understand how our buildings so easily consume a lot of our attention; we have that responsibility. But the best way to preserve a building is to have a vibrant congregation worshipping in it.
Compassion is what will be remembered long after our words. When we are insecure, the temptation is to circle the wagons and focus inwards on ourselves.But in many cases, holding tenaciously to the familiar is actually going to hasten its demise. We’ll need to be more engaged, not less.
This new future is going to require us all to engage in a serious conversation. Those in leadership are going to have to name reality and not collude in denial, and we are going to have to address the right questions.Not, how can we get more people to come to church, but how can we encourage more people to follow Jesus? How can we work together so we grow in conviction, clarity and compassion? How can we rise above our deeply held preferences to foster a church that engages with the wider community? Our discussions about worship style I fear rather miss the point. Very few people are sitting reading their Sunday papers saying, “If only St. Gabriels got their worship style right, I’d be up there like a shot!”
This will not be without its challenges. However, the church has successfully navigated these challenges before, stepping from one culture to another and finding a home there. We have within us the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at creation, and in whose power, Christ performed miracles and rose from the dead. You and God is always a majority. And the God we believe in isn’t short of cash.
And to finish, a prayer that could revolutionise our life together, and costs nothing. What about praying every morning, “Lord, please use me today to share your love with someone who doesn’t know you yet.” 12,000 people praying that could change the world, not just a diocese.
May God bless you and sustain you in the week to come. Lord please use us to share the faith afresh with this generation.