Message from Bishop Rachel, 21 May 2024

Published: Tuesday May 21, 2024

On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost (often known as Whit Sunday). Christians across the world celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after that first Easter day, and just 10 days after Christ ascended to return to God the Father. At that time, Jesus’ followers had been told to wait for the Holy Spirit who would come upon them and empower them to be witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ.

In the days we have lived between Ascension and Pentecost, many people have joined in with the ecumenical movement of prayer ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ (TKC), praying for more people to come to know Jesus Christ.

Last week, at a meeting of the House of Bishops we looked at the Church of England Mission Statistics for 2023. Statistics are only ever part of the picture, and they always help us ask deeper questions (particularly in these years after the pandemic), however according to the statistics for 2023, the average weekly attendance at Church of England services was up on 2022 by nearly 5 percent (5% in this diocese) and the weekly attendance by children increased by almost 6 per cent (9% in this diocese).

In a statement on Pentecost Sunday, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby thanked church leaders and worshipping communities as he celebrated these figures. He acknowledged that while these “.. are just one set of figures, they show without doubt that people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ here and now – and realising it’s the best decision they could ever make. Renewing and growing the Church is always the work of God, and it’s our role to join in with what God is doing.”

It is thus particularly wonderful that The Archbishop of Canterbury will be with us this weekend for our Big Mission weekend of evangelism. He will be participating in a number of different events in different contexts, and a number of different worshipping communities are creating spaces and events to share and speak of the love and hope of Jesus Christ in a place of relationship.

Of course, statistics and planning scheduled events can all seem very temporal and down to earth, yet ultimately this is about looking up to the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ as we pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to be at work within us, between us and around us. As we pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, we lift our eyes not only to see the signs of the kingdom of God, but also to say ‘yes’ to joining in.

Bishop Robert and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the celebration diocesan Eucharist (Holy Communion) in the Cathedral on Sunday 26 May at 3pm (do let us know you’re coming using this form) when we will be together with Archbishop Justin to give thanks for the weekend and to pray for our ongoing witness to Christ as we participate in God’s transforming work among the people and places of our daily lives and contexts, rooted in prayer.

Sunday will also be my final day in the Diocese until 10 July as I am taking six weeks for a mini sabbatical (details in the Weekly Bulletin, 21 May 2024) yet throughout this time you will be in my prayers with thanksgiving.

+ Rachel



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