A Happy New Year to you! Many of you I will already have seen and been able to say that to you, but for those who haven’t had my greeting, here it is, my prayer for you all near the start of 2006.
As I write this the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is close at hand, though by the time you read this it will be finished for another year. Yet because Jesus prayed that we might all be one, the search to come and work ever more closely together with those of other traditions must go on constantly. We have our differences in emphasis, but we also have much in common. One question we should always be asking is what we can learn from one another.
Recently there was a visit to the area by the new Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and the day ended with an Open Meeting at Tadcaster Grammar School. He spoke briefly, responded to questions and then met folk over refreshments. Nothing he said was very complicated but in the course of speaking he unearthed a few gold nuggets for us, among them the following:
1. He spoke of the key role for clergy being that of encouraging and enabling lay people to use their varied gifts. (As Methodists I know we are part of a Church that is essentially a lay movement supported by a few Ministers!)
2. The way he responded to a question from a 13 year old lad about what made him want to be an Archbishop was just the sort of way Jesus would react. He invited him out, as Jesus put a child in the midst of his followers, took his question seriously and made it plain he never had any desire for such a position – if there were any who did desire such things they would probably never achieve them. When you become a friend of Jesus, though, you just never know where that will lead to!
3. He made it plain that in many ways he was very much the traditionalist, which I suspect means he appreciates not just the Book of Common Prayer but also the traditions that Methodists and others might hold dear!
4. Asked to pick out priorities he identified two things, PRAYER and PARTIES! It was the life of Jesus that furnished this answer for both were important to our Lord, in the second instance much to the disapproval of the establishment!
The more I though about that last answer the more it seemed to me it made good sense. Both are important. To spend time together socially hopefully brings people close together. But the prayer side is equally important and to coin a phrase, “You can’t have one without the other!” I’ve known churches where there hasn’t been a balance. I knew one in Bradford. It’s drama productions were legendary, it’s cricket teams played in the Bradford Sunday School League, it’s table tennis teams were as good as any around, but for some, as Jesus said, “One thing was lacking”.
It was the spending of time in the company of Jesus. It’s not the only church I’ve known like that. Where are they now? Many are like the one in Bradford – it closed over 20 years ago! I would love to see a church where the two things went so hand in hand you couldn’t tell where the one started and the other finished, where all it’s people valued both. Could our Church be like that?
With much love,
Your Minister and friend