Open and active
The Bishop’s Pastoral Letter for August 2019
Bishop Geoff challenges us: are we fit for purpose?
In my last Pastoral Letter in April, I expressed the hope that Brexit would have gone smoothly and everything would be wonderful!
Things have not gone as many hoped and frankly you do not need me to tell you what a mess our Nation seems to be grappling with. Please continue to pray for all our MPs and especially whoever happens to be Prime Minister by the time you read this. Pray too for the healing of divisions within our (far from) United Kingdom, between young and old and between friends and within families (including the Family of the Church). Prayer works where so much else fails.
Someone once wrote that ‘Society at its worst needs the Church at its best’ and while so much attention is necessarily focused on our relationship with Europe and post Brexit trade, there is a real need for us as the Church to keep reminding those who are elected to govern this country that there are also many pressing domestic issues that need their attention – housing; education; health and well-being; effects of climate change; challenges facing our agricultural sector and rural communities etc etc – I am sure you can add to the list!
I firmly believe that we have to offer a voice to the voice-less and through our daily living out of our faith come alongside those who are struggling in the cities, towns and villages of our Diocese of Lichfield.
Our ‘mandate’ comes not from the electorate but from Jesus Christ – his own example and his command that we should care for one another expressed so directly in Matthew 25:31ff. We have to ask ourselves if we are a ‘sheep’ or a ‘goat’ – we know what we should be doing and we have enough Saints to remind us that through the Grace of God and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit our Lord’s will can be done. But we also have to ask ourselves the hard question: ‘Are we fit for purpose?’
The Prayer of Intercession in the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service urges us to ‘pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in earth’. The ‘militant’ Church is the visible earthly Church as opposed to the Church ‘triumphant’ that is invisible in Heaven. On earth the Church is militant in that it daily battles with the powers of darkness – in Heaven it is triumphant because it has overcome those powers of darkness.
We are the Christian Church on earth and we must be prepared to make our concern for all people visible by our militancy. There is no point ‘talking the talk’ unless we are prepared to ‘walk the walk’!
There are so many good examples within our Diocese where this is already happening and through its social concern the Church is militant. But there is so much more that we could be doing to serve our local Communities. I have always thought that the House of Bread in Stafford offers an amazing template for what more of us could be doing. The doors are open to all and the welcome is truly inclusive and hospitable. Refreshments are readily available but more importantly people are there to listen and to talk with one another in a friendly and non-judgemental manner. Prayer and Bible study are offered in an unfussy way alongside practical help with people’s immediate needs (usually about finding somewhere to sleep) and there is a willingness to come alongside people and help them in their dealings with the various authorities.
It is no wonder that The House of Bread has been honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service but itself is honouring God through the ministry that it is offering. If your Church is at present closed for most of the week how about asking what you might be able to do to make it more militant in your own community – and bring your Church and your own faith alive!