(Romans 4: 17b)
This description of God by Paul in his letter to the Romans is one I have been contemplating in prayer as I dwell on the issue of change.
I have recently found myself in conversations about people’s concerns and disappointments that so much of the resolve to learn from the experience of pandemic and lockdown and to live differently, seems to be dissipating. I’m aware that during the first lockdown amidst the loss and pain, people commented on the unexpected gift of quiet and a desire to better care for creation and live more simply, yet so much of what we are now seeing privately and publicly seems to involve a strong pulling back to how we lived before March 2020.
Some of that ‘returning’ is good and is an intentional response to that important question ‘What is it we need to bring back or hold on to?’, but some of our desire to revert is because it’s easier than grappling with the other important question of ‘What do we need to let go of or leave in the past?’ As has been said before, I don’t underestimate how hard it is to imagine and be creative when people are weary and longing to go back to something familiar, so we do need to be drawing on the prayer, insights, support and gifts of one another as we embrace change.
I am also aware as I look around and listen to the news, that some of the change we are seeing is rooted in scarcity. Whether it’s in the sphere of health or businesses or farming or something else, there is change as a result of shortages of staff and volunteers, or a lack of resources, including money.
In parishes and local ministry contexts, and across deaneries and the wider diocese, it is easy to notice all we do not have and to let ‘lack’ drive our re-shaping. Yet I want to encourage us to dare to have the courage to see differently. Not to deny the struggle and loss but rather to persist in being the Church which is God’s Church, sustained by God’s generous and abundant love, grace and mercy. How do we see all we do have and ensure that our change is shaped as a response to our desire to live and share life in all its fullness as we proclaim the unchanging gospel afresh in each generation and yearn for a good relationship with God, neighbour and all of creation?
Reshaping ourselves for the future in our local contexts, in deaneries and across the diocese, must not be driven by anxiety, finance and numbers. Of course, those things are important in helping us to ask missional questions and to prayerfully seek to shape our lives well at every level. Yet, the end-goal is not financial and number targets, it is about fruitfulness and seeing the signs of the Kingdom of God increasing and being committed to people of every age and background across every community, have good and appropriate opportunities to encounter Christ and taste the goodness of Christ’s life in all its fullness. And that is about every follower of Christ from the youngest to the oldest, living their part in the Body of Christ Sunday through to Saturday.
As I pray for us all in this next season, please do hear again that permission to take risk (of the right sort!) and to experiment, coupled with a deep commitment to look and listen well to one another and to God, in order to notice where the Spirit is leading as we seek to enter into the change that is of God ‘who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist’.
With my thanks and prayers