CONTEMPLATIVE, COMPASSIONATE, COURAGEOUS: A VISION FOR A CHRIST-LIKE CHURCH
Thank you for a such a very warm welcome across the Diocese of Oxford during my tour of every deanery. We began in Abingdon back in December and finished in Henley on 20th July.
Each day began with a Eucharist for the clergy of the deanery followed by lunch and dialogue together. That means I met with most of the clergy of the diocese – well over 500 in total. Every afternoon was spent in community visits: to schools, food banks, community cafes, a prison, RAF Brize Norton, farms, a flour mill, two factories, a job centre, and some really imaginative community projects. In the early evening I shared a simple supper and conversation with about a dozen lay leaders from across the deanery and met around 350 people in that way.
Each day ended with an open evening gathering for all who wanted to come together across the deanery. At these gatherings we prayed together, I gave a short address and the floor was open for questions. If you missed it, you can find a recording of the Aylesbury gathering here.
We didn’t keep an exact count but I guess about 3,000 people came to those meetings. We were standing room only in Henley after moving to a much larger space. The questions ranged widely over all that is happening in the Church and the world and the kind of Church we are now called to be.
All in all the tour has been a wonderful introduction to the Diocese of Oxford and I’m grateful to all those who made it possible – especially our lay chairs and Area Deans – and to all those who gave up time to be there.
My aim in this initial year has been very simple: to begin to get to know the Diocese and begin to be known. We’ve also begun to shape and discern together a common vision for the future.
In almost every deanery evening I have shared my very deep sense of God’s call to us to become a more Christ-like Church in this next period of our life together and for this to be our shaping vision for the Diocese of Oxford. I have returned again and again to the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew as the source of that vision: the call to the Church to be poor in spirit, mourning for the suffering in the world, meek, hungry for justice, full of mercy and kindness, peacemaking, pure in heart and willing to bear the cost of our discipleship. We have tried to summarise all of this vision in just three words: a call to be a more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous Church across this Diocese as we move forward.
In this next year, I am asking every deanery and benefice, parish and small group, every school, every chaplaincy and every church organisation to think about these themes and consider what it means to be more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous in the life of the church as the next stage of developing that common vision.
We will be developing some resources to help this process and there will be Development Days and other events in each Area. More details are on the website.
But at the heart of this is a very simple call to reflect again on what it means to be a Christ-like church: to return to the source and to the centre of our faith – to read the beatitudes, to reflect on them and to live them together