In his recent address to General Synod, the Archbishop talked about the unsettling effects of change. As we are well on the way on a journey on the bumpy road of vacancy, that time between John leaving and the appointment of a new vicar, (and the changes they will inevitably bring); I thought it useful to relay some of ++Justin's thoughts. Most of what you read is adapted from that address.
Change unsettles. Change unsettles us individually and collectively, throws our compass into confusion, morally, and in attitudes.
In the Church of England, as every other church, we struggle with change and stability.
Middleton and Walsh (in a book published in 1993 'The Truth is stranger than it used to be') wrote that "Christians need to indwell the biblical drama by serious, passionate study of the scriptures. This requires us to become intimately familiar with biblical text in order to gain a deep, intuitive sense of the story's dramatic movement and the author's plot intention. We have a mission given by God a call to make disciples, from Christ Himself, which must overthrow all particular interests, all personal desires. If we may develop a love filled, faithful improvisation we have the certain hope of a Church renewed and revived, serving the Common Good, lifting up the Glory of Christ and revealing the Kingdom. This requires taking the risk of improvisation that is creative, innovative and flexible".
These discussions and that quotation point towards a challenge that we deal with here, and is faced by every church, chaplaincy, Religious Community or any gathering of group of Christians. How do we reimagine the shape and reality of the Church, so as proclaim the gospel afresh in each generation?
The goals of the Church of England call us to spiritual and numerical growth, serving the common good and reimagining ministry.
Note the wording; we agreed to reimagine, not to tinker with ministry. I think it is arguable that although we have made a serious start to reimagining ministry, with numerous reports in every area from rural ministry through education to the ministry of the laity (so long neglected) and within renewal and reform, we have not yet fully lived a reimagining of ministry. Yet reimagining is demanded by the times in which we live, by our experience of church which is changing and developing, by the impact of an ever more effective contribution to the common good that we are making in an age of austerity and by the nature and turmoil of our society. We are seeing wonderful changes such as Fresh Expressions and Pioneer Ministry, innovations in training and so on. However, I often wonder, 'Is that it?'. Are we sufficiently attuned to the ever-present work of the Holy Spirit calling us on?
Faithful innovation and improvisation must cause us to look afresh at our structures and our habits. Our development of the ministry of all the baptised, as opposed to meaning only the ministry of the ordained or licensed, requires innovation, not merely a few tweaks. Our approach to safeguarding needs culture change. Our renewing of vocations, and their development and support requires both clear tradition and huge innovation. We must innovate, within the tradition, in our attitudes to episcopacy. The parish system and its links to natural communities, the issues of buildings, our attitudes to inclusion, all require faithful and faith-filled innovation and improvisation.
We have a mission given by God a call to make disciples, from Christ Himself, which must overthrow all particular interests, all personal desires. If we may develop a love filled, faithful improvisation we have the certain hope of a Church renewed and revived, serving the Common Good, lifting up the Glory of Christ and revealing the Kingdom.
As I mentioned you have just read snippets of the full address, it is well worth reading it in full remembering that each church member is responsible for the change required to make the church the place God wants it to be, even when we find it hard to see past what we want it to be, no matter what our tradition.
The full script of ++Justin can be found at: