Letter to parishioners, 13 May 2021

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last Saturday the Diocesan Synod voted on a series of proposals put forward by our bishops. These proposals are intended to create a strategy that will not only ensure the survival of the Church in the Diocese of Lincoln, but will also see it flourishing and growing. For many this news evokes feelings of scepticism, uncertainty and fear. Surely, the Church has tried all this before, several times. Surely, this is just a way of cutting down on clergy and closing churches. Surely, this undermines everything we understand as ‘Church’. All of these, and other similar comments have been made in more recent days. But, we do have to face up to the reality of the financial crisis that is not unique to our diocese, just as we have the opportunity, as post-lockdown life slowly emerges, to re-invent ourselves in a way that brings us closer to the Church envisaged in the New Testament.

We know, from our reading of the New Testament, that the idyllic notions of cooperation, openness and sacrificial generosity were short-lived. As Paul wrote to the various first century Christian communities, he was addressing the emergence of practices and beliefs that were much akin to those that Jesus criticised throughout his earthly ministry. The whole Church, and not just the Church in our diocese, would do well to engage closer with those earliest post-resurrection writings, to strive for cooperation, openness and generosity in all its dealings.

The pandemic has presented us with a clean slate on which to write the next chapter of the Church’s history. This is not unique, it has happened in other moments of our human story. Following both the first and second World Wars the Church was compelled to change direction. The events of the last year, when viewed from a global perspective, are no less powerful and far-reaching than those two cataclysmic times.

This weekend, in the time between Ascension Day and Pentecost, we will hear of Matthias. Matthias was the one chosen to replace Judas Iscariot in the company of the disciples. Having journeyed faithfully with Jesus’ band of followers, he was deemed a suitable candidate for this post, and he stood alongside the equally qualified Joseph, also known as Justus. Through prayer and trust in the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the lot fell to Matthias. Suddenly, all would be different. In the briefest of moments he moved from faithful follower to committed disciple, and apostle. His world was changed irrevocably, and his joy must also have been tinged with the question: ‘What have I done?’

Next week we will once again recall the coming of the Holy Spirit. We will celebrate the powerful and unpredictable wind and fire of God’s Spirit moving among all who live in this world. We will be given the opportunity to join Matthias in being changed and energised by the Holy Spirit moving among us and working through us.

Uncertain times lie ahead, but we should not be daunted by that. Rather, we should listen for the promptings of the Holy Spirit and work doubly hard to share the love and joy of the risen Christ with all alongside whom we live and work. We should rejoice that Jesus has kept his promise of sending an Advocate who would encourage and support us as we share the Good News of the Gospel with all. We should pray for strength to help fill the blank pages of our story that lie before us.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen