– I see a world, busy, confused, spoilt, sick, diverse, wealthy and impoverished, hungry, lonely and driven – going about its everyday business with those who are successful, enjoying a great variety of luxuries and opportunities and entertainment – and those who are not successful looking out with envy wondering how they are going to manage the basic necessities of life – all holding themselves in check to avoid being criticised, blamed, abused, misunderstood or shouted at.
– I see the church broken and faulty and yet enjoying friendship, kindness, acceptance, insight, comfort, health, fulfilment and purpose. Not yet perfect but knowing the love of God. Not even confident of the love of God sometimes and yet seeking and finding. At best a band of friends on a journey, on a quest in which the goal is the Kingdom of God and its expansion also happens along the way.
– I see the Father looking at the church with all its peculiarities, diversity, enthusiasm, dogged determination and frailty and loving what he has made, looking forward to a day when all enmity and disillusionment is removed and only the goodness, patience, joy and faithfulness remains.
– I see Jesus walking alongside each church; in some whirling and dancing with joy, in others standing quietly in the intense silence and peace and always close to those who come into church and weep. I see him dismayed when we behave badly towards one another, but he has never given up – always there if the church will turn its eyes and see. Recently in my imagination I have seen Jesus on the altar step in St Stephen’s and me kneeling and prostrate in adoration – are you there with me?
– I see the Spirit of God active and blowing from place to place – igniting hope, igniting faith, facilitating communication between people and our loving Father. Busy looking for all that is good and fanning it in to being better. Inspiring imagination, providing unexpected thoughts, verses from the Bible, hymns in your head that go round and round. Unexpected optimism and joy, comfort even in the worst of circumstances and the ability to go on when human strength has failed.
I am reminded of a piece I read a number of years ago. It was a description of a large house full of lights and people, safe and secure, bright and noisy, full of music and laughter and nourishment. Out in the dark garden people looked on, cold, distant, wanting to join the party – yet those in the party could not see them or their needs and did not open the door.
It is my understanding that the main focus and purpose of this church of St. Stephen’s in Chapelfield is to open the doors. This does and will take a huge number of different forms and the way we enjoy the party while including newcomers will develop and is a huge challenge. That is our destiny to grapple with – how to engage with people of every age in a way that enables them to hear about the love of the Father, the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the capacity of the Holy Spirit to comfort every person who will make themselves vulnerable and who becomes aware that this is what they have been seeking but never before found.
– I see St. Stephen’s more than any other congregation in the city as a missionary congregation which enables people to belong before they believe and as the place where they spend years becoming – growing from season to season in maturity, knowledge and love of God with the rest of us who are already embarked on that process.
– I see hospitality, faithfulness and healing as distinctives that have deep roots going back to the 1400’s when the “good vicar” is known to have demonstrated all these characteristics. We are an open orthodox community which is now more than ever before deeply Trinitarian – celebrating the love of the Father, the presence of the Son and activity of the Holy Spirit, in teaching and experience – and we have a history of participation of all the church in the fulfilment of the mission of the church. This will need to grow and grow.
That is the challenge – we have come through so much, we have survived so much uncertainty and yet held on to God and each other. It has been a training ground for our future. It has been uncomfortable and has formed character in us for the task ahead.
Just as we were called to restore a beautiful medieval building for modern use, I believe that we are now called to translate and communicate ancient faith in Father, Son and Holy Spirit for modern people.
We shall do this by following the processes that were effective in the building project. And this next stage will last 4 years.
Madeline Light, April 2013