Letter from the Archdeacon of Worcester6 Jun 2016 By Robert Jones
A letter from the Archdeacon of Worcester for July editions of Parish Magazines
By the time you read this we will know whether the UK has voted In or Out, though at the time of writing I’m still being assailed from both sides wanting my vote! However, as we saw in the Scottish referendum, the results aren’t the end of the story. There are always further negotiations to take place and, perhaps more importantly for us all, relationships to be built and even re-built.
This process also happens within churches and in families. Opinions are one thing, but relationships count too. Often it comes down to key individuals going that one extra step and reaching out to the other side. As Christians we are surely in the business of taking the extra step, and more if needed.
We saw this in the negotiations over the Good Friday agreement about the future of Northern Ireland, where sworn enemies sat down together for what they perceived to be a greater good. We see Pope Francis reaching out to all sorts of people who feel alienated from the Church and using the media to great effect in doing so. I guess for him it was not so much a case of the greater good as the greater God! He seems to rest at peace and with integrity within his understanding of a God who gives him space to take such courageous steps and live up to one of his titles, pontifex or bridge-builder.
God is always greater than we can imagine or conceive. Our words can only hint at who this God is. That is why the Church has worshipped Him down the centuries in the beauty of holiness, using poetry and music, liturgy and architecture to express that to which our words cannot do full justice. This beauty is not a sort of cultural captivity: there is a powerful Christian tradition of beautiful worship in beautiful settings leading to beautiful lives being lived to the full.
Those who have worshipped Him in the beauty of holiness have discovered that same holiness in the rough and tumble of daily life. Bishop Frank Weston, speaking at an Anglo-Catholic congress nearly a hundred years ago, told his listeners: ‘You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums. . . It is folly, it is madness, to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating him in the souls and bodies of his children.’
Love of God goes hand in hand with love of neighbour. Finding space for our spacious God surely enlarges our heart enough to go out to those we love and those we find it hard to love, and maybe makes us those bridge-builders and reconcilers which the world needs.