It was a very special privilege to gather last week with clergy and some of our lay leaders from across the diocese for our tri-annual Diocesan Clergy Conference.
Our theme was ‘Sharing God’s Story, sharing our story’ and it was both poignant and deeply encouraging to share what we have experienced in our own lives and the way Jesus Christ has ‘emptied himself’, ‘been born in human likeness’ and ‘humbled himself’ (Philippians 2) to share our story and to give us, even in our anxiety and fear, hope and confidence. As Bishop Rachel reminded us at the end of the conference, the promise is given and is sure ‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Revelation 21)
This does not, however, mean that there is nothing for us to do. As the Church, we are charged in this time to share God’s love and to work for the coming of the Kingdom. So we return from the conference recommitted to sharing in this great commission with you, with the whole baptised people of God and with partners of goodwill across our communities.
It’s especially good therefore that this week we are celebrating World Habitat Day – an initiative of the United Nations, which this year is under the theme ‘Mind the Gap. Leave No One and Place Behind’, looking at the problem of growing inequality and challenges in cities and human settlements. This is a necessary reminder that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be committed to justice and the welfare of all. You can find more details here. More locally, in the UK we are marking the launch of the Warm Welcome campaign. This exists to support and champion the community response to the cost-of-living crisis. Working with partners of all kinds, it seeks to equip thousands of organisations to provide a warm welcome to everyone who might need it this winter. You can find more details here.
For me, one of the key things about both World Habitat Day and Warm Welcome is that they are initiatives in which the opportunity is to partner with others, recognising that we do not ourselves have all that is needed or required – it is just possible that if we are looking for a place to keep physically warm this winter, our medieval church building might not be it. Much rather we can bring what we have, to work with others and to share in doing something both special and necessary. In this we can, gently, openly, tell, live our story and God’s speaking, in word and deed, of what God has done for us and the life that we find in Jesus Christ. Open to all, serving all, for God loves all.
We are at the beginning of what looks set to be a long, hard winter – one that is making many fearful. God’s story that is shared with us in Jesus Christ does not shy away from acknowledging the reality of that fear, but it says firmly, with conviction, we are not alone, and that fear will not triumph for the victory is won. (1 Corinthians 15) That should encourage us to act, knowing the need is urgent, knowing that this is what we are called to do and be.