Bishop's Letter (Ad Clerum) to Clergy Jan 2006
The New Year sometimes begins seamlessly and, of course, the transition from one day to another can be somewhat arbitrary. Naturally, my own personal thoughts on 2005 give rise to hopes – realistic hopes – about 2006. Since I last wrote to you, I went down with an infection after chemo 3, as is normal when the blood counts have dropped, but it wasn’t nearly as tough as the infection after chemo 2; needless to say, the blood counts started kicking back straight away. It meant being on day release over Christmas, and discharge two days after; and I now await chemo 4 (the last) next week. Can’t wait till it’s all over!
Christmas itself, however, was anything but an anticlimax. Over and above all your cards and good wishes, we had the whole family around us. That meant a four-part harmony Carol Service in the Chapel on Christmas Eve, followed by a three-part harmony Eucharist on Christmas Day. And just to tap into the Nordic roots, I watched earlier that morning a video of a televised Christmas morning Eucharist from Århus Cathedral in 1999, with all the Danish carols I’ve known since childhood.
Quite what the New Year will bring for the diocese I do not know. I hope – and expect – that it will produce a new Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, perhaps some judicious (but not, I hope, too drawn out!) nuancing of the DSRG proposals, and a collective will not to be thrown off the main course – KAIROS. I believe that the DSRG proposals are excellent; but it will be unwise for the diocese to use them as an excuse for avoiding facing up to the main challenge of local mission and ministry, by focusing energy and attention on structural questions. KAIROS is what we need to keep our eyes on. The stewardship of our resources and the operation of our organization may change; but the Gospel imperative remains.
Let’s not let the Church mirror too closely the culture we live in, which so easily gets distracted into convenience and comfort zones of endless debate. The priestly Body of Christ exists in history, yes, but history shot through with eternity – not its own banalities! That means both the God-given shape of the threefold order of bishops, presbyters and deacons, as well as the more provisional areas, such as our synodical and committee structures. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that, for all the outward humanity of the Church, we carry within ourselves the indelible mark of the Incarnation – which is not a side-dish option, like a choice of chutney with the Boxing Day turkey left-overs, but an essential, non-negotiable for our faith. I am reminded of some words from a Christmas Sermon by the Restoration preacher, Mark Frank:
‘He that measures the heavens with his span, the waters in the hollow of his hand, who involves all things, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in whom all our beings and well-beings are wrapped from all eternity; comes now to be wrapped and made up like a new-born child – who can unwind or unfold his humility?’
A very happy New Year to you all