Stages on the Journey

St. Michael’s Vicarage
Alnwick

Dear People of Alnwick,

The other day I dipped into a book which Jane had recently purchased. Entitled ‘Re-enchanting Christianity’, it is by the author Dave Tomlinson who is well-known for an earlier book, ‘How to be a bad Christian…and a better human being’.

Reflecting on the way in which a considerable number of people who were formerly regular churchgoers have become disenchanted, Tomlinson says:

“Church is not supposed to be a place of theological ‘purity’ or rigid conformity to certain beliefs and conventions, but a mishmash of believers, doubters, dissenters and malcontents, each of whom is grappling in his or her own way towards a mystery that is God.”

It seems to me that St Michael’s is a microcosm of Tomlinson’s description of what the church should be – and for that I’m hugely thankful. Whatever stage each of us may be in our pilgrimage of faith, we’re all ‘in the soup’ together and we’re all loved by God equally!

At this stage in the life of the Church – and not least in Alnwick – we need to recognize that all of us are at different points in our understanding and in the intensity of our faith but that God is calling us to be his followers at this time and in this place.

Within the vastness of God’s unbounded and unchanging love and mercy, we can find ourselves unnerved by change and disheartened because ‘things aren’t the way they were’. I was, therefore, really heartened to read these words in a section of the book entitled ‘Behind the mask of certainty’:

“’When I was a child,’ St. Paul says, ‘I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways’ (1 Cor. 13:11). We are not meant to remain the same, to stick with the same outlook on life or to hang on to the same beliefs and attitudes, come what may. We are meant to grow as people, and as that growth occurs all kinds of change will come about in the way we go about interpreting and applying our Christian faith. This can be exciting and stimulating, but it can also be unnerving – both to ourselves and, more especially, to those around us.”

So, recognizing that, as followers of Christ, we are called to be taken out of our comfort zone, let us embrace this ‘adventure’ which is membership of the body of Christ and do all we can to bring about his kingdom and earth (and especially in Alnwick) as it is in heaven.

As we do so, I would draw your attention to the information in our ‘Gateway’ magazine on the ‘Bishops in Mission’ programme entitled ‘Pathways’ which is being planned for September next year. It feels as if this will be a splendid opportunity to celebrate our diversity as individuals and communities alongside all we hold in common in and through Our Lord.

A prayer from Eric Milner-White, a former Dean of York, seems fitting:

O Lord God,
who called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown:
Give us faith
to go out with a good courage,
not knowing where we are going,
but only that your hand is leading us,
and your love supporting us;
to the glory of your name.  Amen.

With every blessing,

Paul.

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