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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 14.12.2023

Video for December 14th, 2023

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

We have now drawn our year of prayer to a close.  The 24/7 prayer space was packed up this morning and judging by the comments, many people came and found it helpful from across the traditions of our diocese. Last weekend we had the privilege of a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury who joined us for conversation, a prayer walk, and prayers for peace in the Cathedral. As you would expect from the diocese of Hereford and our amazing team we have set the bar very high for his future visits to other dioceses.

The highlight for a number of people was our conversation with Archbishop Justin about his own prayer life and faith. His job is frequently described as impossible – essentially because it is. However, the conversation revealed something of the depth and variety of his practice of prayer, both personally and corporately.  He was accompanied by some of the community of St. Anselm who are a consistent praying presence at Lambeth Palace. His is a role that would break many people. The challenge of holding together such a diverse church often means you are vilified and caricatured equally from both sides of every argument.  Without doubt his extraordinary and exceptional life of prayer has been what has sustained him.

Earlier this week we had the closing service in the cathedral for the year of prayer.  Deaneries brought their prayer candles back, a number burned nearly to the bottom from their pilgrimages around the parishes.  Some remarked that the simple presence of a candle like that prompted a deeper prayer than had been the parishes custom prior to that.  My hope is that patterns of praying, established through this year, will continue and deepen as we move into the year of faith.

If I could distil the essence of Archbishops Justin’s attitude to prayer it would be the faithfulness of God and his utter dependence on him.  These are values I hope will become more embedded in the life of our diocesan prayer as we look to the future together.

When the people of Israel crossed the Jordan at the beginning of the book of Joshua they took twelve stones from the river and built a cairn. God’s instruction to them was that they would, “serve as a sign among you.  In the future, when your children ask you, “What do these stones mean?” tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off….” Human memory is fickle and these sorts of memorials where there to remind every generation of God’s wonderful acts of rescue in the past.  The prophet Habbakuk let it inform his prayers in chapter 3 verse two. “Lord I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known.”

This is a prayer that builds on confidence in God’s unchangeable faithfulness, hopeful that in our challenges the Lord will continue to act.  I was speaking to an Archdeacon from another diocese this week, who after recounting the fairly dire state of their diocesan finances cheerfully stated, “our strategy is to pray for revival.” Another diocesan secretary in the same meeting gave us a loud amen! These are not people who ignore strategy and simply hope something with turn up like Mr McCawber.  This is the sort of hopeful desperation that lies behind my prayers for the Church of England and the Diocese of Hereford on a regular basis!

Time and time again the scriptures tell us stories of God’s people reaching an end of themselves: outgunned, outnumbered, socially excluded, persecuted and overwhelmed. Time and time again they stand on the promises of God and the historical memory of his actions in the past. For the Israelites it was their escape from exile against all odds.  In our tradition we stand on the rock of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  Here is God inaugurating a new exodus, not from geographical slavery into political freedom but from spiritual darkness into light.  In Jesus, God is revealed as the one who rescues and transforms both individuals and societies.  In the history of the Church in times of extreme pressure and anxiety the Holy Spirit has done remarkable things. It has proved to be cracked vessels that reveal the most light.

As we look to the next phase of our life together let Habbakuk’s prayer be ours, “Lord I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known.”

+ Richard

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