Rector's Ramblings: June 6th 2021




      “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

   Do you recognise that quote? It comes from Nicolas Machiavelli. Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat living during the Renaissance, but Google him if you want to know more. We use the term Machiavellian when thinking of political deceit, unscrupulousness and deviousness.

   You may wonder that the Team Rector is doing starting her Ramblings with this. Well, it’s a quote that has been on my study wall ever since I was given it as I left my parishes in Norfolk. It was given to me by someone outside the church who recognised what I had been trying to do. Interesting – he had seen something that many church members didn’t want to see. Why refer to it now? My mind has been full all week of the Shaped by God Together process (read last week’s Ramblings). Don’t stop reading at this point please.  Now is crunch time within the life of the church.

        There are different parts of me feeling all sorts of different things. I share these now because it may be this is how you are feeling too. Join me on a journey. I do not find these Ramblings easy to write but feel it is right to offer them to you.

  •  I honestly do believe that all is in God’s hands
  • I know without doubt that the Church of England will have to organise herself differently, as is true of all denominations. The issues are stark, as we can’t go on ‘same old, same old’. I have known this for some time and I am realistic.
  • I grieve the fact that church will look different. I love the church and I love the Church of England and it pains me deeply to think of the passing of how it is now.
  • I grieve the fact that clergy won’t be able to be the old style parish priest. It’s a role of such privilege and strangeness.
  • I recognise that the Church of England has not always looked as it does now – change is inevitable in any set up. It’s yet another change.
  • I feel the pain of many as the proposals have started to land - I have cared for this ‘patch’ for some 15 years now.
  • I feel irritation that not all has been well explained in the process – indeed I am pretty angry.
  • I feel compassion for the bishop and the senior team as they have to lead this. They do seek to do what they believe is God’s leading.

    I could list more I suspect. Sleepless mornings have continued as I wrestle with it all. One thing however I have to include in the mix, and it is best expressed in this quote from Richard Rohr: “we could acknowledge the unravelling, breaking, and cracking (of the church) as a bearer of truth and even a gift. Perhaps....... the Holy Spirit has been nudging and calling Christians “to embrace a new imagination, but the other one had to unravel for us to see it for what it was. In this sense the malaise of our churches has been the work of God.”  . . . A church that has been humbled by disruption and decline may be a less arrogant and presumptuous church. It may have fewer illusions about its own power and centrality. It may become curious. It may be less willing to ally with the empires and powers that have long defined it. It may finally admit how much it needs the true power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. That’s a church God can work with.”  

    What is the journey I am making, and we all have to make I guess? The journey is to acknowledge the pain of disruption and change, particularly when we hold something dear. We are not like light switches that can simply be turned on and off. At the same time, we need to be with Jesus and to listen to Him. Is he calling us out of our comfort zone, because we need to be called out and set free? Christ is stronger than anything that fragments our lives. He binds the forces that divide, heals the wounds that separate, and refashions pieces into a new whole. There is nothing about your life or my life; there is nothing in the life of the Church of England,  or of this Woodfield Team of parishes that cannot be put back together by the love God in Christ.  

    I pray we can hold together and not say ‘I’m going to take my ball home and not play ball’. That we can listen to each other’s pain with compassion but listen too to the possibility that God is doing a new thing that we cannot yet see. You may now see why I quoted Machiavelli!

    I came across this as an exercise of thanksgiving to do at the end of each day:

  1. Give thanks in general to God our Lord for the benefits received in your life, in others, and in the world today.
  2.  Ask for grace to recognize all those particular things that happened to you and others that you should personally be grateful for.
  3. Make an account of your day from the hour that you got up to the present time, hour by hour, or period by period: first your good thoughts, ideas, and intentions; then your good words spoken and heard; and then good acts, your actions and those of others, small or large, that positively touched your life or the life of someone else. Note them down. 
  4. Praise and thank our Lord for all the opportunities you had to make a difference in the world today and to inspire you to recognize more and more such opportunities in the future. 
  5. Thank God for all God has done for you, and ask yourself: What can I envision doing that would lead me to be even more deeply grateful?

  It’s a review of what went right and not what went wrong. It is one way of growing more grateful and more loving. It is a way in which the various jigsaw pieces of life can start to come together. Why not try it?