Rector’s Letter – July/August

“…my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
[Acts 20:24]

Dear church,

I have just enjoyed a weekend with many of my friends in Church Army. Every two years Church Army hold a conference for the whole society at the Hayes conference centre, Swanwick. It was very special for me because although I received my Church Army commission back in late 2015, I missed it that year, so this was my first in ten years! There were one or two more grey heads than I remember, and some younger livelier recent additions to the community whom it was great to meet and get to know a little.

This year the theme for the gathering was ‘Grace’. We were blessed to have teaching from The Right Reverend Alan Abernethy (Bishop of the Diocese of Connor, NI, and Church Army board member), The Right Revd Stephen Cottrell (Bishop of Chelmsford, and Chairman of the Church Army board), and Church Army’s own charismatic chief executive, Mark Russell. The talks were challenging and inspiring and the speakers spoke passionately and generously of their belief in and commitment to growing in grace. Several members of the CA community were invited to share their stories of how God’s love and grace are transforming in all kinds of social contexts.

It was a wonderful few days and has been particularly helpful to me as lately I find myself wrestling again with the dilemma of learning to show grace while staying true to deeply held values and views, as your example and teacher.

I believe in grace, I rely upon grace, I encourage grace, and am always mindful that I/we are saved by grace. But I can be a rather inconsistent dispenser of grace, especially when cornered by theological and ethical conundrums.

It can be very stressful when our strong yearning to show love and grace finds itself shrouded and encumbered by our sense of duty to uphold truth/values. Whether these barriers are well considered theological principles, or echoes of ingrained bigoted prejudices, we cannot allow them to be the last word. The last word from followers of Jesus must always be ‘grace’, God’s grace.
There are no easy answers to this and it doesn’t necessarily mean that our views and values are wrong. But this world needs more grace, and consequently more effective dispensers of grace. Jesus didn’t train the disciples to be legalistic pious zealots; there were enough of those around with the scribes and the Pharisees. He was shaping them into people whom, having encountered and been wonderfully moved by God’s grace themselves, would become dispensers of that same amazing grace. So it is for His followers today.

But we can’t give to others what we do not possess ourselves. So let’s commit ourselves to pray, that while people around us may increasingly object to and condemn each other’s views and behaviour, that you and I may fully receive and continue to grow in God’s grace, and become the most effective and powerful witness to the Good News of Jesus that we can be.

With love and prayers,