The opportunity for rest and ‘letting go’ is finally appearing on the horizon for Headteachers and staff of schools across the Diocese, and Bishop Robert and I want to say an enormous thank you. It has been inspiring to see how our schools have lived out their calling and created places of community, security and hope over these past few months. As we thank our schools we also want to send up a big cheer for every member of the diocesan Education Team and the Academies Trust.
Whilst we cannot name every staff member, governor, trustee or volunteer contributing to the life of our schools, we thank you that at the heart of your work is a commitment to the thriving of every unique child, named and known.
During this final week of the academic year, the Church of England calendar names a number of individuals, all once children. Today we remember the nineteenth century priest John Keble, who has strong connections with Gloucestershire as does Serlo who we remember in this diocese on Wednesday. He was the Abbot of Gloucester and founder of St Peter’s Abbey, now our cathedral. On Wednesday and Thursday we remember Swithun, Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century, and Osmund the eleventh century Bishop of Salisbury. Then on Saturday we remember Elizabeth Ferard, the first deaconess of the Church of England.
This is also the time of year when typically up and down the country many women and men would be starting out on their journey as newly ordained deacons or priests, and we continue to pray for those in our diocese who are waiting patiently for the day when they can be ordained. Yet the service of ordination reminds us that it is not primarily about these named individuals but rather about the whole Church: ‘In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom’ (words from the introduction to the ordination service).
One of the losses I have been aware of in recent months has been the absence of baptisms and confirmations. It is an immense privilege in the service of confirmation to speak the name of each candidate (whether baptised many years ago or only minutes before), and mark each one with the sign of the cross, saying ‘God has called you by name and made you His own.’
We are loved and called and known by name, and whilst there are sometimes specific tasks and roles to which we are called at a particular time, our calling is not primarily about task but about who we are and who we are becoming, rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ.
In these days of change and navigating life as we have never known it and for which there are no maps or blueprints, may you know God’s calling afresh. Amid weariness or energy, anxiety or calm, may you hear the God who loves you deeply speak your name as you let go in rest and childlike trust, whatever the future holds.
Psalm 131: Rest and quiet trust
1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvellous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
Bishop Robert and I continue to hold you in our prayers with thanksgiving.