The Rector writes: One of the great privileges in the course of my long ministry has been to serve as a Vocations Adviser, and for a few years in my last diocese of being a Bishop’s Adviser, attending panels around the country, helping people from so many walks of life to discern what call God had for them. All of us, of course, are called to be members of Christ’s body, his church, living out our lives and our pilgrimage through this world as faithful disciples, but some too feeling the call to offer themselves in ordained or accredited ministries in the church. The days away at these advisory panels were tiring for all of us but they were always a humbling time when we met men and women with so many gifts and from such diverse backgrounds, seeking to proclaim their faith afresh wherever God called them.
Later this month, Bishop Martin will be with us in Winchelsea to confirm those people who are now taking their faith on to a new stage. I have always found Confirmation Services very moving, watching as our candidates, young and not so young, come forward to declare their faith and pray for the gift of the Spirit in their lives, leading them on to whatever God has planned for them. It is good that this month too we celebrate the great birthday of the Church at Pentecost. We hear that wonderful story of so many people speaking countless languages hearing of God’s promises in their own tongue. It is a reminder of the universal nature of our faith. We are all brothers and sisters across the world.
A year ago the Diocese launched its five year strategy for growth and for reimagining ministry. I said then that we need to be reimagining the church, full stop. As we pray for the gifts of the Spirit at Pentecost, so we must go on praying for a church that is welcoming, open, inclusive; the safe place that we yearn for, where everyone finds a haven. ‘Revive your Church’, says one Pentecost prayer, ‘with the breath of love’. It is love and renewal that must surely lie at the real heart of everything that happens to us as a church. There can be no doubt that the changes that took place in people’s lives were tremendous on the first day of Pentecost. I pray we may be just as positive about the church as those early Christians were and be open to what we are about as disciples today and in the future.
What language, I wonder, will most people outside understand at the end of the day. The language we speak needs to reflect the hopes and aspirations of every person. of whatever gender, nationality, age and orientation. The call we all share as the body of Christ must be about welcoming everyone, turning no one away, where we share the unconditional love of God in faith and action, where everyone is valued and respected. I pray that those offering themselves in service to Christ will always proclaim those Christ like values of love and acceptance. For therein lies the Spirit-filled church that we pray will be a church fit for the future; a church that brings hope and hospitality to all who enter in.