Rector's Letter for December
DEAR SISTERS AND BROTHERS,
Arriving in a new place of work is something many of us will have done. For some, that will have meant simply travelling in a new direction; for others, new work will have involved new location with all the hassle that comes with that. And change of address is merely the tip of the iceberg; new people to meet, new systems to learn, new expectations, headaches, opportunities. Change is exhausting.
When I was studying for ordination, I spent lots of time reading the works of John Henry Newman. You possibly know some of his poetry; “Lead kindly light”, “Praise to the Holiest”, “Firmly I believe and truly”. He wrote lots. In one of his works, looking at the way ideas develop in politics, science and so on, he wrote “to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”. I love and am constantly challenged by that insight. Our Christian vocation, as humans made in the image and likeness of God, is to become more like Jesus, our model of perfection. Newman recognises that if we are to open ourselves up to God we need to become vulnerable, to embrace futures that might not be our preference, to let go those things which have kept us secure and comfortable. In my head, I know Newman is right. Telling my heart that I need to change is something I, and I suspect many of us, resist. Most of us think that we reach a point in life where we shouldn’t have to change. If we think like that, we have missed the point of being a Christian and turned our habits and preferences into idols. We have stopped short of where God wants us to be.
So, in moving to Bury, moving to a new town where we know no one, moving to a new Diocese with different leaders, structures and rhythms, moving to a new church (or churches, to be precise), with very different patterns of worship, that little phrase of Newman’s comes to mind. Change is not merely part of life; embracing change, welcoming it with all the anxieties and stresses and strains (some of which, I suspect, you will have about your new Rector), should be a positive part of our spiritual lives.
This magazine comes out at Christmas and covers the New Year, too. Moving at this time of year allows the heart to reflect on the way God plunged into his world in a new way. Christmas, if it is nothing else (and it is a lot else), is the story of God’s relocation, God’s change of postcode. St John, whose strange prologue at the beginning of his Gospel ends up with the memorable words “and the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us”, the Gospel we hear at the Midnight Mass, nails this point. The Greek means something like “God set up a tent in our midst”.
As we worship the Lord together, let us listen out (again) for the way in which he embraced a new way of relating to us and to his creation. Personally, this Christmas, I am going to try and observe the way the Lord works through this community and listen out for the ways in which he is calling us to make his presence known in our town. Please pray for me and pray for our church and parish, that together we may announce the Good News of Jesus Christ boldly and joyfully in 2018.
With love and prayers,