Letter to parishioners, 11 June 2021

Friday, 11 June 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

In our reading from Mark’s gospel this Sunday we will hear Jesus compare the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. This may seem an odd comparison to draw, but it makes perfect sense when we pause to reflect upon the mission of Christ’s Church in this world, and particularly in the context we find ourselves in at the moment. The Church of England at every level, national and local, is being challenged to consider its future. There has been much ill-informed comment in the press and much apprehension and fear is being expressed at a more local level. However, nothing should mitigate against our responding to Christ’s call to Go and make disciples of all nations, and that is what Jesus’ talk of the mustard seed is really about.

When I first came to this Benefice I was told: nobody had any interest in what the Church had to offer; nobody would ever be prepared to engage with the mission of the Church; nobody would tolerate anything that differed from the routines of the previous ten years or so. None of this has proved to be true! None of this was based on a response to Christ’s commission to all believers to nurture the tiny seed of Christian faith, no matter where or how its shoots might show themselves.

The mustard seed, as we hear in our gospel reading, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth. But, despite its smallness and apparent insignificance, it has the capacity to grow into the greatest of all shrubs, a great shrub that provides shelter for those who are weak and in need. This is the reason Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed! We need to hear Jesus’ words and we need to take them seriously. We need to stop viewing the Church as a local and insular organisation that has nothing to do with the wider world. We need to take responsibility and play our part in sowing the tiny seeds of faith, and then nurturing them. It is only when we come to a serious engagement with Christ’s call to Go and make disciples that the future of the Church might become secure, and that is the responsibility of all and not just a select few.

The Diocese of Lincoln, like every other diocese in the country, is currently reviewing how its established patterns of serving the differing communities of Greater Lincolnshire might be improved. We are all being given an opportunity to engage with this process. We are all being given the opportunity to express our vision for the Church. The question we have to face is whether or not we are prepared to grasp that opportunity in the context of Jesus’ teaching on the sowing and nurturing of faith, and on our responsibility to make disciples. We can, of course, turn our backs on the process that is just beginning. We can say that we are not prepared to change anything. We can get ourselves ready for the moment when we are told what change is going to take place, rather than engage with the evolution of that change.

I hope and pray that we might all take to heart Jesus’ words, Jesus’ commission, and participate in the process that will ensure the future of our Parishes. I hope and pray that we might all come to understand our role of stewardship. Our churches and our parishes have been in existence for many centuries, it is just our turn to care for them and to nurture them. Are we going to continue spreading the tiny seeds of faith? Are we going to continue nurturing those seeds in order that the Church of the future might be grateful for the work we did on their behalf? Or … are we going to reject Jesus’ call and watch the Church wither because we do not like change?

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen