Collective approach needed to face challenges and opportunities ahead
The prophet Isaiah’s words to the exiles in Babylon (See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19) have certainly been true for the Watson family over the course of 2015. A new home, a new school, two new ministries, and a newly married daughter and son-in-law have been among the many developments of the past year; and in amidst the inevitable stresses of such major upheavals, we’ve been very conscious of God’s grace in it all.
Something’s stirring in the diocese too: not just the inevitable changes of emphasis that the conjunction of a new bishop and a new diocesan secretary are bound to portend; but something more fundamental, more spiritual than that. It was deeply encouraging to hear from a long-in-the-tooth clergyperson that the 2015 clergy conference was his ‘best yet’ out of the 13 he’d attended – a reflection not so much on the quality of the input as on the strength of the realism, mutual support and prayerfulness. Much the same was said of the subsequent deanery meetings, as we prayerfully reflected together on the findings of our mission strategy survey. There does seem to be a deepening sense that we’re all in this together, members of the same team rather than rivals or competitors.
This must be the right approach as we face the challenges and opportunities ahead. Rapid changes in the educational and welfare landscape are requiring an ever more agile response from our education and community engagement teams. A similar agility is required in our parishes as we respond to the mission and training opportunities afforded by new housing projects and changing demographics. Every parish has a very large number of people for whom church as we know it is entirely unfamiliar. Committing ourselves to proclaiming the Gospel afresh in this generation will therefore require a degree of humility, creativity and mutual learning which is variously exciting and distinctly scary. And in all this the biggest questions of them all, the questions that should be drawing us to our knees in serious prayer are these: firstly, ‘What is the new thing that God is doing?’ and secondly, ‘How can we join in?’
Rt Revd Andrew Watson
Bishop of Guildford