A year ago I invited the Diocese of Oxford to listen to God through a particular passage of Scripture: the beatitudes of Matthew 5.1-10.
We are exploring our call to be a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world: more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous.
I know from different conversations, gatherings and written feedback that this has been very fruitful. Many groups listened to God through the beatitudes through dwelling in the word during meetings.
More than 6,000 people engaged with the study booklets we produced on the beatitudes and on Lazarus. Many churches developed sermon series or other good ways of study.
One of the main conclusions of our year of listening is that we need to do this more and continue to focus on what it means to be a more Christ-like Church. Lots of good practical strategies have emerged for local churches and for the diocese and these are moving forward.
However this listening is more important than anything we may decide to do, individually and together. I am therefore inviting the whole Diocese to a second year of listening, this time through the Letter to the Colossians and especially Colossians 1.15-20 and Colossians 3.12-17.
Again the focus will be on exploring more of what it means to be a Christ-like Church. The first short passage focusses on Christ, the second on the life of the Church. Again, there will be many different ways to listen through the text. Here are two resources to begin the process:
- A print-out of the Bible passage suitable for use when dwelling in the word
- The addresses I offered at the clergy conference in May on Colossians 1-3
The Diocese will be producing a short study booklet similar to the Beatitudes booklet in time for use in Advent 2018 or Lent 2019 based on these addresses. More details later.
I hope that listening to God in this way through scripture will resource our personal lives and also the life of every local church. Over the course of the next year, the Diocese is planning to develop a very simple resource to support renewal and mission locally which builds on all we have been learning through this process of developing fresh vision.
A year ago we established six working groups to look at what we might attempt to do together. These groups have listened deeply to Scripture and to the Diocese. They have developed plans which flow from this call to be a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world. I gave a recent update on these at the Diocesan Synod in June. There will be further updates in the coming months.
But we want to begin a new academic year not with a whole list of things to do and not with a range of goals and targets or a fifteen point comprehensive strategy.
Jesus said to Mary and Martha: one thing is needed. In a time of great challenge for the world and for the Church, we are called to listen and ponder and reflect on what it means to become a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world: more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous.
Grace be with you