It was a delight on Monday evening to commission the four young people who are the first participants on our ministry experience scheme. And now I am looking forward with Bishop Robert to the ordination services this weekend in the cathedral when fourteen people will be ordained deacon and nine people will be ordained priest. The services will look very different from past years but they are still about the whole Church, and indeed the whole world, as we are reminded that “In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of God’s kingdom”. This is the big picture within which the ministry of deacons and priests is set.
As it happens, Saturday will also be the fifth anniversary of my inauguration in Gloucester Cathedral. My first sermon was about my passion for us to be that Church which joins in with God’s kingdom work of transformation in our world, locally, nationally and globally. As I repeatedly say, it is about us understanding what it means to be the Church gathered and sent, sent and gathered. So, in that first sermon I used the image of us as followers of Christ trailing the wet footprints of our baptism, Sunday through to Saturday, among the people and places of our daily lives.
This image was first used by a theologian called Michael Jinkins and over the years it has inspired me and captured the essence of what I long for Christ’s Church. More recently I have been struck by a description from another theologian, Tom Wright, of followers of Christ being ‘sign-producers’ for God’s kingdom.
This time of Covid-19 is challenging us to continue to think what it means for us to be the Church, Sunday through to Saturday, as we live in a time when the words trauma, loss, uncertainty and crisis are writ large. It is my prayer that as we continue to grapple with questions, fears and hopes amid both joy and struggle, we might enable one another to ask what trailing our wet footprints and pointing to the kingdom of God might increasingly look like, both in our individual lives and in our local communities, as we live with authenticity, holding fast to the hope of Christ.
I have not named the MES participants or the new deacons and priests, but as they begin this new chapter of ministry I pray that with them, we too will hear God call us by name to be changemakers, storytellers and sign-producers among the people and places of our lives. How might we enable each other to grow in our faith as we live these strange days; to go deeper in prayer; and to enable those around us to connect with God in their own story and encounter Jesus Christ?
Sadly we will not all be able to gather together for the ordinations to celebrate being the whole baptised people of God, but you are invited to come and be part of the Festival of Everyday Faith on 3 October. Whilst it is an event, it is not an initiative, because it is about what it means for us to be the Church. It would be wonderful if as many of us as possible could be present for part of it and particularly for the final commissioning, which will be rooted in our baptism vows, and connected to our daily lives where the Holy Spirit is at work within us, through us and around us.
Thank you for being part of the adventure and trailing your unique wet footprints as you live your own unique story.
With my prayers as ever,