Rector's Letter for March
DEAR SISTERS AND BROTHERS,
I am quietly amused by those conversations which drift off in the direction of the “good olde days” when doors were unlocked, everyone looked out for each other and, apparently, the Church was full. As an avid consumer of all that the National Trust has to offer, an occasional reader of social history and student of Church history, I know that what our minds generate by way of recall is (to put it politely) piffle. Doors were unlocked because there was literally nothing to steal, the powerful and rather beautiful mutual care, whilst not untrue, was not common (have you read any Dickens lately?) and the pulses of renewal in the Church, the rise of Methodism, the Evangelical revival, the Oxford movement (to which the architecture of Bury Parish bears testimony) and even Billy Graham, disclose that the Church has constantly needed to explore new ways of telling the Jesus story to a changing world. Beware piffle.
One instinct the Church has, in a changing world, is to look afresh at our roots. The patterns of mission and worship that served previous generations might be less effective now (think of the sadly closed churches around Bury) but there may be a deep truth in those ancient rhythms that might serve us today. Lent is a time when we see this at work. On a personal level, the call to the simple if demanding disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are about re-centring ourselves, about reconnecting with the Lord through activities which are internal and external. In our worship together, we do strange things which, whilst awkward if seen by others, reinforce our sense of following Jesus in the passion stories.
These two parts to our Christian life, the internal and the external, come together in our observance of Holy Week which comes at the end of this month. We Christians seem to like our sacred time intense. The danger of this is that we opt to avoid inconveniencing ourselves and turn up only on a Sunday, as if nothing were different. My training incumbent used to ponder aloud why people bothered to turn up to Easter Day if they couldn’t be bothered to turn up on Good Friday. I’m not sure I ever found a reasonable answer to that. I’m not sure that there is one. I trust and pray that the public worship we make available might deepen your sense of the love of Christ crucified for you and by your presence, you may experience something of his grace and forgiveness and love.
With love and prayers,