As we move into the month of June still learning to live with Covid-19, we do not know what the government guidelines will be for life beyond 21 June, but once again I want to say an enormous Thank You for our life together and for all you have held and navigated over this past year. Thank you too for the way people are creating a wave of thanks, amid both lament and joy, within your local context. Here is the link again to some resources to support you in whatever way seems appropriate.
Last week the Bishop’s Staff Team finally managed to meet in person and I know that my ‘Thank you’ is echoed by every member of that Team. We spent time together at Harnhill, continuing to look back and look forward, and it was good to share in each other’s stories.
Over the past few weeks in our Bulletin letters, both Bishop Robert and I have spoken about the importance of ‘story’ and I have commented on the fact that when the Holy Spirit came in power upon the first disciples on the day of Pentecost they were sent out to be storytellers for Jesus Christ. He had already told them that when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they would be his witnesses locally (in Jerusalem) and across the region (Judea and Samaria), and even beyond, to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
We are part of this Church, and as receivers of Jesus Christ’s transforming story, we too are sent out to be storytellers and communities of story tellers as we share in God’s story, both when we gather and when we are sent out to our daily lives.
As we emerge from lockdown, still learning to live with Covid-19, I wonder what stories we will tell of God’s presence in both our lament and joy, as we live the present, giving space to pause and look back as we also seek to discern the future and what it means to live and share life in all its fullness, rooted in Jesus Christ (John 10:10).
Our LIFE vision has perhaps taken on a new poignancy during the viral pandemic, and over this past year I have frequently commented that I have seen the four LIFE themes and many of the strands of commitments, from a new perspective.
Last July I wrote to you on the Feast of Mary Magdalene to say that as we come towards the end of the five-year period since we discerned the LIFE vision together in 2016, LIFE is not coming to an end. We are not going to be starting a big new vision-discerning process. LIFE continues together. Yet we do need to be noticing where the spotlight is shining as we seek to identify where God might be calling us to focus more deeply in our local contexts and diocesan wide, not least in the light of this past year. For example, the focus on new worshipping communities in many different local contexts, including the emergence of OneLife and the Church Army Centres for Mission (in Matson and Coleford), have all grown from LIFE, as has deeper commitment to the environment, greater partnership with community groups; a deeper commitment to living and sharing our faith in our everyday lives; and stronger links of faith between schools, homes and worshipping communities … and so much more.
Just as our discernment together in 2016 was rooted in the soil of prayer and conversation, I hope that will also be true in the days ahead, not least in the continuing work of shaping courageous deanery plans together. Thank you to those who have invested so much in this so far, particularly Area Deans and Lay Chairs.
Sharing local stories as individuals and communities will be key to noticing change as we discern the work of the Holy Spirit within us, around us and between us as we walk on. Therefore I want to invite you to contribute to the story-sharing over the coming weeks, so that the stories from people of all ages which are being shared in many different local contexts, are heard more widely. Stories from both before the viral pandemic and from this past year: *
What has failed and what has been difficult? What has been fruitful and where do you see new shoots emerging? Where have you been disappointed and where are you noticing different threads of LIFE being woven together?
It is my prayer that in the coming weeks we will give space and time to look back (particularly in the light of this last year), and to breathe deeply as we open ourselves afresh to the breath of God’s Spirit. May we notice the significance of what we have lived and are living now, as we tell our stories, big and small, and discern where the spotlight is shining as we shape the next stage of LIFE, continuing to pray for the unfolding story of God’s kingdom coming on earth as in heaven.
I end this week’s letter with our LIFE prayer, which perhaps we will pray differently as we look back on the past year and gradually discern the way forward.
As ever, this comes with my continued thanks and prayers
God of hope and transformation,
who in our Lord Jesus Christ
offers the gift of life in all its fullness
send your Holy Spirit and grant us
joy in our following and vision in our leadership.
May we be rich in imagination,
confident in faith,
and courageous in our engagement with
the people and places of this diocese.
As we share your life with the world,
keep us rooted and grounded in love.
As we bear witness to your glory,
we pray for your Kingdom to come.
*Please send stories to Lucy Taylor commenting on what is significant in the story for you in your context regarding LIFE (one small story may weave together a number of different strands of LIFE)? Is there anything we might learn more widely from this? Your stories could be in written or video form and do attach photos where appropriate.
There are many LIFE stories across our website, please do take a look. If you are happy to have yours included online, please do let Lucy know.