From the Rectory July/August 2016
I sat watching the end of the football match with Iceland last night. What I saw was a very sad sight – a number of individual English players strewn around the pitch, lost in their own misery. And I thought, doesn’t that simply sum up where we are at this moment in our nation’s life.
It doesn’t feel like ten years since I first came to St Peter’s. And yet, looking back, an awful lot has happened. We’ve shared many ups and downs. We’ve had memorable celebrations and we’ve suffered sad losses. We’ve struggled to discern our place in the scheme of things, and we’ve challenged others to face the reality of what’s happening. We’ve sat with the homeless, we’ve shared with those of other faiths and offered hospitality to strangers. And we’ve done it all together, trying above all to be faithful to the Gospel and to follow Christ well.
As my time here comes to an end, though, I am well aware that we are in the midst of a time of change and crisis. The Referendum vote will have its consequences – both good and bad – but we have to pray that it won’t lead to more divisions and a breaking-apart of all the good things we enjoy as a nation. We mustn’t let ourselves become less open, generous or gracious. But that could happen.
As followers of Jesus, what do we offer to this painful and dangerous place we find ourselves in? Only one thing – God – who chose to come to us as Emmanuel, ‘God-with-us’; not with ‘me’ or ‘you’ but ‘us’! We are the ‘body of Christ’; the word ‘church’ comes from the Latin ‘ecclesia’ – ‘called together’. At the heart of the Gospel is togetherness. And that’s absolutely crucial.
We live in an increasingly individualised and atomised age. Despite technology that promised to connect us as never before, the great scourge of our society is loneliness, social isolation is its posh name – but it comes to the same thing, which that picture from the football field so perfectly describes. Apart we can do nothing; together (like Iceland!) anything is possible.
St. Peter’s over the last ten years has worked together. You have supported me and Janet wonderfully; we’ve tried to do the same for you (and where we’ve failed, please forgive us.) My prayer is that that continues to happen; that this will continue to be an open, generous and gracious place, helping, and occasionally challenging, the communities of Bedford to become a little more open and generous and gracious, too. And all because of Emmanuel – God who is with us!
We’re going to miss you all hugely. But in the words of Dag Hammarskjold (who was the 2nd Director-General of the United Nations and knew the importance of ‘us’)
‘For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, Yes!’
With our love,
Mike and Janet