Following the dramas of the weeks leading up to the summer holidays – political, sporting and climatic – I hope that you have found rest and refreshment in the time that has followed, and are ready to take up afresh the challenges that lie ahead.
Whilst the church calendar begins with Advent and the secular one begins with January, I think it is safe to say that the school year is what really shapes the pattern of Church life. So we begin afresh this month – seeking to engage in targeted mission, to offer the best in worship and pastoral care, and to grow deeper in our own Christian discipleship. Whatever form these activities take for you personally and in the life of that part of the Church and the Kingdom in which you are called to serve, may this be a fruitful year for you.
A question we might like to ask ourselves is: do we resume our activities on auto-pilot – treading a familiar path, perhaps rather stuck in an established groove – or are we ready to try new things, to leave our personal comfort zones and to take risks in the service of the One who risked everything for us?
The beauty of Church life is that we are not alone – we are in this together. Let us encourage one another to be bold, to discern what we are being called to be and to do, and to have the courage to step out and get on with it.
Two of my Christian heroes are Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Ignatius Loyola. Both were prayerful men of action. Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was imprisoned and killed for his part in a conspiracy against Hitler – a conspiracy with the aim of bringing the Nazi atrocity to an end – wrote from his prison cell a meditation for the baptism of his godson, Dietrich Bethge, who is now 75 years old and an internationally renowned cellist. In this baptism meditation, Bonhoeffer wrote:
We can be Christians today in only two ways, through prayer and doing justice among human beings. All Christian thinking, talking, and organising must be born anew, out of that prayer and action.
Ignatius Loyola, the 16th century Spanish priest and founder of the international religious order, the Jesuits, famously wrote:
Act as though everything depended upon you but pray as though everything depended on God.
May this new school year be one of deep prayer and bold action throughout the Diocese, as we seek to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie before us. May we be neither timid on the one hand, nor complacent on the other, but may we be ready to play our part afresh and to the full in the adventure of faith and the mission of the Church.
May God bless us as we seek, in our day, to be faithful to our Christian calling, and to be people of prayer and action – whatever form that may be called to take.
Archdeacon of Oakham