Extra Ordinary Presence
Extra Ordinary Presence
The Bishop’s Pastoral Letter for February 2019
As we await the appointment of a new Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Archdeacon of Stoke writes this month’s Pastoral Letter.
Though it was many years ago, it has stayed with me as a memory. Because my school was a Church of England school, we had termly evening Communion services to which parents were also invited. On this occasion there was an eminent speaker and the hall was full. After the service, I found myself, aged 16, in conversation with the speaker. I cannot recall anything of what he said to me but to this day I remember that, despite all the other people milling around us, he gave me his full and undivided attention. It was more than flattering. I sensed a real interest in me as a person and a genuine regard and encouragement.
This is in contrast to those times when we feel that the person we are with would rather be talking to someone more interesting or important elsewhere in the room. We may have been guilty of it ourselves – looking over the shoulder of the person before us, eyes flicking back and forth, scanning the crowd for the next, more rewarding (we think), encounter.
February this year is an “in-between” month. The great cycle of Christmas and Epiphany concludes at the beginning of the month with Candlemas and Lent and Easter are yet to come in March and April. This February, we return briefly in the church calendar to what is called “ordinary time”, to those humble Sundays that are “before” or “after” some great celebration. It may be that we are tempted this month – and whenever we find ourselves in those “in between” times in life – to “look over the shoulder” of the present moment to what we imagine are more exciting times ahead. It’s great to be able to look forward to the future but there is the danger that we stop expecting to meet God in the present, especially if the present feels to be one of those “in between” times. The fact is God wants to bless us now, speak to us now, call us to service now and not just in the future.
It’s a temptation to rush on to whatever is next. This month we are invited to practice the presence of God; to give the present moment our full regard and listen out for God’s word to us now. So we learn, as Rob Bell puts it, “how to be here”.
The Ven Matthew Parker
Archdeacon of Stoke-upon-Trent