Today, as we begin a new Triennium of this Synod, we celebrated the Eucharist and heard from Ephesians 3:14-4:6 and the gospel of John 15:1-12. We reflected on the generous love of God and Jesus’ call to love each other as he loved us, and Paul’s call to bear with each other in love.
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
It has been 8 months since my installation, and a year since I became aware of the new ministry to which God was calling me.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your welcome and support. It has been a great joy to have begun to get to know you, the Diocese, our churches, and the community to which I have been called.
It has been a privilege to see the way in which the Church in London is responding to God’s call to speak confidently about the hope we have found in Christ, to act with compassion in our communities and to creatively plant new worshipping communities. There is much to celebrate.
We have seen:
- 38,000 people sign up as Ambassadors;
- We have over 55 new worshipping communities, well on the way to our target of 100;
- There are 153 parishes delivering 230 distinctive projects focusing on tackling poverty and inequality through 1500 volunteers working alongside paid staff to create positive outcomes for over 14,000 lives each year;
- And we should not forget the 60 thousand children attending one of our 160 schools.
As a city, as a country and as a church we are entering a time of uncertainty. What is it that we are called to be and do at this time?
What are the signs of the time?
- 123 people have been killed in London so far this year – 71 fatal stabbings and 14 shootings.
- There are some 8000 people sleeping rough in the capital.
- St Luke’s healthcare for clergy found in a recent survey of clergy that around 12% of those who responded said they are struggling or barely coping. Two-thirds of those said they frequently considered giving up their role in the Church because of stress
- The Church in the Diocese of London is growing in confidence. However, while our worshipping community figures are stable, this is a city where still only 1.6% of the population attends church.
- We are a diocese where only 5 per cent of our some 850 clergy are from Black and Minority Ethnic Groups.
- The House of Bishops will within this Triennium respond to Living in Love and faith. The project on relationships, marriage and sexuality.
Sometimes the signs of the time may seem overwhelming but we need to keep in mind Paul’s audacious prayer in which he reminds us of the power that is at work in us and the people we have been called to be:
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20)
So looking forward, rooted and grounded in love with Christ dwelling in us we have been called in all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
It is rooted and grounded in love with Christ dwelling in us we look forward to the new Triennium and in doing so we begin a new Church year which marks the last two years of Capital Vision 2020, all areas of focus remain but we are going to pay greater attention to:
- Young people
- New worshipping communities
- Increasing vocations
- Our ambassadors
- Capital Mass
Paul reminds us that it is not just what we do but how we do it. Central to what we do as a Synod is to reflect on how we support and enable the local church resourcing them to be confident in speaking about their faith, compassionate in their care of the community and creatively planting new worshipping communities.
The Diocesan Lent Appeal has in the past been a way in which we have supported our parishes to consider prayerfully how we can as a Diocese join together and raise awareness of an issue. This year it is on Modern Day Slavery. Our appeal will build on the work of the Clewer Initiative, part of the national church’s approach to eradicating modern day slavery. We will be partnering with five charities that are already active in London.
There are at least 40 million victims of modern day slavery in the world today, and tens of thousands in the UK. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, in a capital city heralded for its history and culture, modern slavery is thriving. Thousands are forced into domestic servitude, forced labour or sexual exploitation in plain sight of Londoners, and many more are at risk of falling through the cracks, hidden from the view of the authorities, charities and the church.
We as a Synod need to consider prayerfully what God is calling us to do beyond 2020. We must be rooted and established in Christ, growing deeper into God and towards each other and the world – the fruit of which will be growth, spiritual and numerical. We need to ask of each other what it is to do this with humility and gentleness, with patience; what it is to bear with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bonds of love.
Together we need to support the clergy of this diocese and set all of God’s people free; we need to work with our church schools. We need a vision which has young people at its heart, underpinned by our values of confidence, compassion and creativity.
20 Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)