Greetings from the Rector
Dr John Pridmore, at the beginning of one of the York Lent Courses a few years ago, wrote about how, as a school chaplain, he used to try to explain the meaning of the cross to his confirmation classes. Some years later, he realised that any attempt at explaining the meaning of the cross would fail to give an adequate account. “Better not to explain”, he wrote, “but to stay as long as we can beneath the cross – and then to stay there a little longer”.
Lent gives us all an opportunity to do just that – to linger beneath the cross and to contemplate its significance. Here in the Benefice, there will be plenty of opportunities to do that, beginning on March 5th with the special Ash Wednesday Communion Services (see list of services for details). The scriptures tell us that “Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem”. He set out on his journey towards the cross resolutely, not put off by the opposition and the obstacles he knew he would meet on the journey. The Ash Wednesday Service offers the opportunity to be signed with the cross in ash, a sign not only of repentance but also of our own commitment to set out on a journey of self examination, knowing that the journey could bring challenge.
The Lenten journey will be further aided by the Lent Courses which are being held throughout the Benefice on different days and different times. What a wonderful array of courses to choose from, I would urge you to seek out a group and commit yourself to a Lenten journey, travelling with companions you have known for many years or those you are yet to meet.
I was sorting some papers the other day and came across some words spoken by Bishop Trevor in his first sermon in Canterbury Cathedral, delivered on the occasion of his installation in 2010. Speaking of the need for the work of the church to grow he said “I stand before you as Bishop wholly committed to the life of the church … people must see that you and I are about building together the body of Christ”. Recent articles in the Church Times and the findings from the Church Growth Research project carried out over two years 2011 – 2013 present the bleak truth that the Church of England is in decline. An ageing population inhabits the church pews and many churches nationally have witnessed a severe decline in the number of children and young families who attend regularly. There can be little doubt that if the Church of England is going to continue beyond the next decade, we must take heed of these reports and act accordingly.
This last month has been difficult for many people in the benefice as the inevitable effects of change have been felt but I want to finish this letter with a statement of intent. Echoing the words of the Bishop, I want to urge that in all that we do here in this benefice, people must see that we are about building together the body of Christ and I, as your Rector, remain wholly committed to this purpose.
The journey to the cross never promised to be easy. As we travel together, let us seek God’s grace and mercy and let us set our faces to the glorious resurrection and the beginning of a new chapter.