This year, like previous years we share the Bishop of London’s Easter Message….
Last week was full of notable events for the Christian Church. Tuesday – Rome. Thursday – Canterbury. Wednesday – St Cuthbert’s Philbeach Gardens – Earl’s Court. A new Pope or a new Archbishop can set a tone and influence the atmosphere in which we work but, as Jesus said, the battle will be lost and won at home in Galilee: in our local Christian community. I can not think of a better place to be than working in the Diocese of London, or of better company in which to learn to be a better friend and servant of Jesus Christ.
It was in one of the parishes of the Diocese that our new Archbishop heard the call to serve as a priest. He presented himself to the then Bishop of Kensington who declared that he had interviewed hundreds of prospective ordinands and that Justin did not qualify for the top 1,000. I can only think that the quality of the other 999 must have been exceptional.
Just a little adding-up reveals the vigour and health of Christ’s body in London. It is estimated that our church volunteers in London help as many as 734,500 people in need each year and contribute to many more organisations themselves working amongst the capital’s communities. Together we are well on the way to making cynicism unfashionable; building a Church for London that is confident, compassionate and creative. Those three words inform Capital Vision 2020, the Diocese of London’s blueprint for the next seven years, which will be launched in St Paul’s Cathedral on June 6th.
The world is changing profoundly and it is in this context that our three main themes have emerged. The unchallengeable Western hegemony of the past 250 years is giving way to a more multipolar world. China with its fast-growing Christian community is regaining the economic and political place it held until the eighteenth century. At the same time, scientists are beginning to articulate the fear that climate change will exceed the two degree increase in average global temperatures with a consequent impact on some of the most vulnerable communities in the world. An increase in average temperatures, probably means for us colder and wetter as the ocean currents are shifted. At present we occupy first class cabins in the global ark but we shall not for long be insulated from the effects of distress in steerage.
In the difficult times which lie ahead, strong churches will be beacons and anchor-holds in a frightening world; a world in which financial stringency and lack of employment for young people will demand a more united response from the church in every part of London. This is why we intend by 2020 to commission 100,000 Christians in London committed to being kingdom-makers and using their gifts for the common good.
I do not think that as a church we have begun to appreciate the impact of social media. Facebook has been the most successful missionary movement of the past few years and the capacity of the new media to challenge and sometimes dissolve corporations and long established institutions is huge. In this new world the guidance of those like myself who have only just discovered steel nibs is of limited usefulness. We must open the doors to the young and be prepared for the changes that will ensue. We are determined to double the number young people actively involved in church life by 2020. We are looking to build on some of the work already being done in sports based ministry and in the creative arts.
We have huge opportunities to use our gifts for the common good and who knows how long the opportunities will last. Why should we continue to enjoy our rich heritage unless we are fruitful?
We are being given a little more time to develop a transforming confidence not in ourselves but in the love of God; to deepen a healing compassion and to bear fruit in the creativity with which we use our gifts for the common good. This Easter, I am convinced that there is nothing that is impossible for a Church that is confident, compassionate and creative in the power of the Spirit and in union with Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.