©Kirton News 2018

Letters to the Editor

The View from the Vicarage

Cardinal John Henry Newman, who began life as a Church of England clergyman before he became a Roman Catholic, and who is now in the process to become a Saint of the Catholic Church has left the world and the Church a very powerful heritage of writings and theology.

One of the most powerful and yet simple sayings of Newman is all to do with the notion of change. “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”  Newman could say this because he himself had to deal with change in his own life on many levels. Anglicans have latterly struggled with the concept of change and adaptation, yet the fact of the matter is there would be no Anglican Church or worldwide Anglican Communion today had not our forebears been prepared to adopt change as a necessary part of their spiritual life.

The early church as seen in the Acts of the Apostles needed to change from a small group of first generation believers to a mature group of people that would take their faith and their message to the far corners of the world. As those faith communities matured, so they discovered each other and what common life meant for them, but they also had to come to terms with their differences.  The so called” golden age” of our parish Churches has been long gone, we have been in survival mode for many years. Where is our faith? Why are we so frightened of change – if as Newman states boldly we only become perfect through change.

As your current committed and energetic parish priest, I work hard with PCC members, Churchwardens and others to creatively find new ways to revitalize and renew our Churches and congregations, engaging with our local and wider community that we might be fit for purpose. This will require some change!  We cannot afford to stagnate.

Not even the reign of Jesus on earth was to last forever, nor was the faith invested in Jesus, for this must not be confused with faith in the God of Surprises. The reign of Jesus was to be a reign of reconciliation. The kingdom belongs not to Jesus but to God, the maker of all things. Now these are surprising words, maybe even shocking to you. Perhaps they conflict with your deepest convictions about yourself and the Church. Ydet I am bound to ask - Dare we more fully rely on God rather than on ourselves? It has been my experience that this means when we are no longer filled with certitude; we might just be filled with surprise.

To conclude, the Church should be a community of vision, given its identity and mission by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without a clear idea of its calling and purpose, the church will fade away, the custodian of cultural memories that fewer and fewer want to recall. We simply cannot live on past memories; we can, however, live and act on the powerful and energizing vision that has been passed down through the apostles to us. Our theological openness can help us appreciate a renewed spiritual vitality, to proclaim its excitement to others and live out its joy and delight in the world in which we now live. So think for a moment or two about these words and how they affect your life.

 “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”  John Henry Newman

Yours in Christ,

Fr Paul