… since I last wrote a blog for this website. A lot has changed, and change makes us afraid but also gives us opportunities.
I last wrote at the beginning of the restrictions first imposed upon us at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. None of us could have predicted exactly how things might of turned out – still less how some of them have actually developed!
So – a couple of personal notes first. The first summer of Covid was interesting for me. I learnt new skills as I started to prepare worship while our churches were closed. Each week a recorded a video service which I put online. The first recordings were very rough and took ages to put together. The process got quicker and, I hope, more slick! The most satisfying to produce were the ones for special occasions – Holy Week, Easter, Christmas, Harvest, Remembrance Sunday. Generally though, it got harder and harder to produce services every week and it was a huge relief when we were able to start worshipping in church again – even though the church services looked and felt very different from how they had been before Covid.
Then, towards the middle of 2021 I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. At the start of August I had a part of my bowel removed and the resulting biopsy revealed the need for chemotherapy. That completed I needed to protect myself from infection so was out of circulation for a good while.
During that time I decided that the time was right to retire – it was only few months earlier than I would have take that step anyway. A few months later my wife and I moved to a home in Cornwall in order to be a little closer to some of our family. We’re settling in really nicely now, getting to know our way around. I’m settling into church life again – as a congregation member at St Neot’s Church near Liskeard. We’ve been busy making a number of repairs to our bungalow and are about to start redecorating. Soon I shall ask the Bishop of Truro for permission to officiate – as long as my health remains good and the cancer does not recur.
Enough of me. Now to look a little more widely.
There can be no doubt that Covid has had some major effects on the churches. Many are getting back to normal, some have grown, some have contracted but I’m sure that all have been challenged and have been changed. Covid, of course is still with us and will be for years to come. It will come in waves, which we will manage but there will be times for all of our church communities when they will be challenged afresh to rethink how they minister in those communities.
We heard that in the National Census of last year those who self-identified as Christians were in a minority for the first time. This was hardly a surprise – the numbers have been heading downwards for many decades. As a result there have been calls for the Church of England to be disestablished. I’ve long thought that establishment has been something of an anachronism at the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Disestablishment is now, I think inevitable. This is now a nettle that the church should grasp and soon it should actively seek disestablishment rather than waiting for it to be forced upon it. I am sure that being disestablished will open as many doors as will be closed for the church. Seeking it ourselves means that we can more readily shape the transition and choose the church that we become. It is, I am sure, or can be, a real opportunity for growth.
During this year the Church of England will debate at General Synod whether it should change its continual practice and solemnise same sex marriages. I am sure that the change will be hotly debated, but it looks as if the time is now right. Other Western churches of the Anglican Communion have already taken this step, other churches in England already conduct such ceremonies. There will be hard discussions to had within the church and with other churches in the Anglican Communion who cannot sanction such a move, but we, as they, need to exist within our environment and be culturally relevant to our society. Our refusal, so far, to sanction such a change has made the church appear uncaring, judgemental and callous to our society.
So, much has changed, for me and for the Church. Much will change in the year ahead. All we can do is own the change and use the opportunities it offers us. And we can only achieve this if we are prepared to do it with faith and trust in the God who always shows us the way, always walks with us, and always loves us and calls us to love him and his people. With God we have nothing to fear and can hope in everything.