Message from Bishop Rachel, 6 June 2023

Published: Tuesday June 6, 2023

Bishop RachelWe do a lot of counting in the Church, often related to numbers of people or leaders or amounts of money – and much of that can help us identify the places where we are healthy as Church and where we are not.

In the shaping of our current strategies and plans, not least within each deanery, there is a need for some counting and measuring, yet always being aware that noticing and nurturing growth and health involves so much more than counting.

Counting and measuring are never an end in themselves and become completely irrelevant if we lose sight of the ‘why’. Our vision is to see God’s Kingdom coming on earth as in heaven, and we cannot rely on counting to measure the mysterious and transforming work of God in hearts and lives, or the depth of our relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no counting which can neatly quantify the work of the Holy Spirit at work within us and around us, such that lives and communities are transformed as we join in with God’s Kingdom work of mercy, justice, hope, peace and love in a world in which there is so much destruction, pain and brokenness amid the beauty and joy.

I was reflecting on all this last week as I was walking alone through fields and along hedgerows. As I listened to sublime birdsong and became more attuned to the waving grasses and the branches gently swaying in the wind, it was as if creation around me was singing and moving in praise to God. Indeed I was reminded of those words in Isaiah of the mountains and the hills bursting into song, and the trees of the field clapping their hands (Isaiah 55:12). Yet I was also reminded of those verses from Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome in which he speaks about the groaning of creation, longing for that day when ‘creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay …’ – That day when God’s kingdom will be fully established (Romans 8:19-22).

Surely we are more aware than ever that our stewardship of creation is integral to our commitment to join in with God’s mission of reconciliation and transformation, which brings me back to counting. This week we are in the middle of a particular initiative with the title ‘Churches Count on Nature’, and people are being encouraged to count and record what they see in churchyards as we celebrate the biodiversity whilst also being alert to the ways we are destroying nature and our planet.

I am increasingly reminded how the commitments spotlighted in our diocesan vision of LIFE Together can be woven together when it comes to our focus on the flourishing of creation. It can be a way of engaging with the wider community and has the potential to enable young people to explore and grow in faith; and we already know that a focus on creation is enabling new and courageous ways of worshipping to emerge which are connecting with more people of different ages and backgrounds in different places beyond the walls of our church buildings.

Our vision of LIFE Together is set within that big vision of God’s Kingdom coming on earth as in heaven, with people of all ages discovering and sharing life in all its fullness as relationships with God, neighbour and creation are restored and flourish. And with that as the vision set before us, this week’s counting in our churchyards seems a very good thing. I look forward to hearing more.

With my thanks and prayers,

One thought on “Message from Bishop Rachel, 6 June 2023

  1. Thank you Bishop Rachel for your inspiring message today 6 June 2023.
    I have just come back from a beautiful holiday in North Cornwall.
    Experiencing Gods creation on Loe Bar pebble beach listening to the waves crashing on the shore & then receding back out to see. The birds gliding on the warm thermals & calling to each other. The sun rays were beaming down on me as though God was wrapping his arms around me, & my mind drifted into prayer & thanks giving me time to reflect on my fortunate life, being free to be at ease with God in his very outdoor Kingdom of creation by the sea. I prayed that in Gods Kingdom there would be Peace, Hope & Tranquility for all in this broken world.
    Romans 12. 10-13
    10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
    How inspiring that Lucy will be Ordained & is excited about going outside the church walls to connect with people.

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