Message from Bishop Robert, 28 June 2022

Published: Tuesday June 28, 2022

Bishop RobertOne of the priorities that Bishop Rachel and I share with the Archdeacons, is to spend time with benefices that are ‘in vacancy’ when we can.

I don’t really like the word ‘vacancy’. It’s better than ‘interregnum’, between two ‘rulers’… which I hope does not reflect the collaborative leadership that we are called to share within the whole baptised people of God. Vacancy implies an absence and that is not my experience of this time.

This is a time, in my experience, that has a deep variety of emotions and activities. There might be a sense of loss, of a friend and pastor, an ending of pastoral relationship, thanksgiving for all that was good, and sometimes a lament if all has not been as it might. Then there will be activity to ensure the continuing ministry of the benefice in worship, pastoral care, and outreach. Activity that at its best enables people to try new things, and explore new or underused gifts. Looking forward there will be thought to be given to the shape of ministry for the future, quite possibly different from the past, since our communities, context and church are managing change. ‘Vacancy’ doesn’t really capture it!

I recently explored with one parish the idea of this time as being one more of ‘expectancy’, a deepening understanding of God’s purpose for the community, both in the immediate and in the future, of discovering anew what we are called to be as the Church, sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ and working for the Kingdom. This is not to underestimate the demands of a vacancy, which may rightly also mean stopping doing some things that we have done for many years, but it reframes how we approach the time from one of sacristy to abundance and trust.

I wonder if such an approach might also change how we see the present moment in our national life. If not ‘in vacancy’ exactly, this is, without doubt, a time of significant transition and challenge as we seek to manage the economic and political impact of a pandemic, war, international political tension and so much more. This too is a time when so many in our communities are struggling. There needs to be activity, a deep concern that we defend the weak and uphold the poor and oppressed (Ps 82). It is part of our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ to clothe the naked and feed the hungry (Matthew 25).

It is also a time to be focussed on the way we will live once this immediacy of this time passes, as it will. For our government, this is focused on ‘levelling up’. Whatever your own political perspective, it is a bold agenda whose headlines are growth, opportunity, community, and local empowerment. These are good things that we want to see succeed. But like all such agendas, they need from us all, not just our political leaders, a clear sense of what we are levelling up to. What is our expectation for how we should live together in our society and communities? The vision of the Kingdom that Jesus constantly points us to is of justice, mercy and peace, one that looks to the needs of our neighbours and breaks down barriers, crosses boundaries and has at its heart our fundamental understanding that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, is precious, unique and of infinite value. In the Kingdom it can never be me or mine first, for this is not the way of the Lord.

Ultimately to level up is but to catch up with what God intends for us, for the nations for all. It will, of course, be about economic growth, stability, freedom, justice, and inclusion… but more deeply it is to recognise the commitment that we owe to each other as a people expectant of the Kingdom.

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2 thoughts on “Message from Bishop Robert, 28 June 2022

  1. Thank you Bishop Robert for a helpfully encouraging message in challenging times.

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