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Part of the mystery of being human is that we make mistakes – that the darkness in the universe flows through us all.

In hard times, and those times when we’re finding our way, the Lord’s Prayer is a source of strength and courage – a reminder to bring our whole selves to God, good bits and bad.

Revisit the journey so far at oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see

Our thanks to Edith Grindley from St Frideswide’s, Water Eaton, for the Lord’s Prayer in British Sign Language.

We are bombarded 24/7 by adverts with just one aim – to make us unhappy with what we have. Our relationship with stuff has gone badly wrong, and our greed is destroying this fragile planet.

Six words contain the secret to happiness in a world in crisis – a prayer to shape our hearts, to make us content with just enough.

Catch up on the journey so far at oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see

 

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Every day the news reminds us of the threads of evil in the world. But the difficult things in life are not the end of the story.

The second line of the Lord’s Prayer is our commitment to being part of the solution – a pledge to play a role, however small, in the mission of God’s kingdom.

Catch up on the journey so far at oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see

 

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Soon we’ll be able to see further out into space than ever before. But as we look further out, we can feel increasingly lost. What’s our place in this ancient and expanding universe?

Your life is not some kind of cosmic accident. You do have a place in this world. The first line of the Lord’s Prayer can help you find it.

This is the first of the Come and See weekly films from Bishop Steven. It accompanies daily email reflections throughout Lent. Join us.

 

Read the transcript.

A compass is held up in front of mountains

“O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.”
(Psalm 100)

The words of Psalm 100 are familiar to all of us and set for Morning Prayer in Epiphany. I guess I’m not the only person who has found them more difficult to say than usual this year. They are words which are challenging and stretching me as I journey through this season – and I’m thankful for them. The call to joy is not always easy, for many different reasons.

Many thousands of families across the diocese have been affected by Covid in the last two years and particularly the last six weeks, my own among them. I had a positive test on 11 December. The following weekend my condition worsened. The NHS sent an ambulance and paramedics on the Saturday, and I spent the Sunday in hospital for observations and tests and then the following week being looked after by the home care team.

All in all it’s been a difficult experience but nowhere near as hard as many have found this journey. I’ve been taking things steadily since. So far there’s been a steady, uneven improvement in strength. I still have some way to go.

Where to start

So the call to joy has been more demanding than usual and is a daily challenge. My starting point is giving thanks for the good things: first and foremost for the care and skill of the NHS staff and my local surgery, for vaccines and boosters (mine was delayed but received this week), for the kindness of friends and colleagues and strangers.

Next, thankfulness for my family: for the miracle of being together with our children and grandchildren on Christmas day, for the fun of building Lego with my grandsons, for the immense joy in the wedding of our eldest son last Saturday.

The example and wisdom of others has become a second stepping-stone. Along with the whole world, I mourn the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu for many reasons: not least his concern for justice. Tutu seemed to radiate joy in the midst of conflict and struggle, a divine joy which was so clearly a source of his own strength and overflowed to give strength and a vital sense of proportion to others. None of us is the centre of the universe.

I’ve discovered a new podcast: Desperately Seeking Wisdom by Craig Oliver – a series of conversations with those who have learned hard lessons. Oliver quotes Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, and Frankl’s resolution in the midst of the concentration camp, in the most difficult circumstances, to choose life and joy each day:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

This is the summons for joy I’ve begun to hear in the words of the Jubilate: as we say the words we say them to ourselves, we encourage one another but most of all we speak to the world.

Our calling as a Church remains to call the world to joy and love and hope and peace even in the midst of sorrow, sickness and suffering. We are all of us tired now; some of us more weary and stretched than we have ever felt in our lives. For some of us our faith, the centre of our vocation, is attenuated and thin: many of the things which sustain us have been stripped away. The outward demands continue, and it’s harder to find the inner resources to rebuild and grow stronger.

We will all navigate this journey in different ways. For me, in this part of the journey, reflecting on this summons to joy is life-giving and sets my compass for the year. For any Christian, this search for joy in the midst of suffering leads to Jesus Christ and to Christ’s passion and resurrection, to the new wine of the kingdom. In this season of Epiphany we celebrate Christ’s first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee: the changing of water into wine. Never have we needed its message more.

Navigating well

All of us will need to find fresh sources of life in the Spirit in this season. As the demands continue, it is also helpful to hold onto strong disciplines of self-care, of gentleness and love in dealing with others and with ourselves, of wise pacing, of conserving energy for the unexpected, of leaning more readily on others. I can’t say often enough how different and distinctive the experience of every individual parish seems to be and therefore how different the experience of clergy is.

As a diocese we are concerned to support parishes, schools and chaplaincies as well as we can through this transition. We haven’t (and won’t) get everything right. That support is built on careful listening. The area teams are seeking to listen continually to what is happening. I greatly appreciated four deanery days in November and December. We’ve had to postpone two (so far) because of my illness but I hope to pick up the series in February.

We hope to gather, if we may, in person for the renewal of ordination vows on Maundy Thursday in Christ Church, and details will be circulated in the coming weeks

We are also looking forward to gathering for our clergy conference from 7-9 June, which will be structured as a conversation together around what we have experienced and how, together, we rebuild from here. (ed: the online booking form has been emailed to clergy)

As a diocese we will continue to offer pointers and resources to take forward our agreed priorities, which have become even more important during the pandemic. Not everything will be possible in every place. Please see these resources as help and support offered and make your own decisions about when is the right time to engage, otherwise what is offered as a support can quickly become a burden.

Come and See

One of these resources is Come and See, offered again in Lent this year as a part of this great call to joy. The aim is to help and support those who may be enquiring about faith, returning to faith after many years or moving to a new place in their faith after the disorientation of the pandemic.

Our theme this year is the Lord’s Prayer: the words Jesus gives us to help us find our place in the universe each day and to choose this path of joy. If you’ve not done so already, you can sign up to offer Come and See in your church. Leader’s packs will be sent out by email early next week.

Christ Church

The whole diocese will be aware of the need to pray regularly for Christ Church, our Cathedral, in this season and all those affected by the difficulties there. If you have questions or concerns about material you have seen, please do speak with one of the area bishops or archdeacons: not every perspective is accurately represented in the press.

And finally….

At the centre of our Christian faith is the call to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbour as ourselves. In this love is our fulfilment and our joy as human persons in community, to be caught up into the very life of God. And so I end where I began;

“O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.”

In Christ our Lord,

 

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft,
Bishop of Oxford

Come and See was a big, warm, open invitation to everyone across the diocese to explore Christian faith in Lent 2021. What happened next?

Podcast

Some people spend their whole lives trying to discover what is important and valuable – what really matters in life. Some stumble across it almost by accident.

The final lines of the Creed remind us of the blessings which are ours in Christ, offered to us by God, free of charge.

This film marks the end of our series on the Creed, but there is still so much more to come and see.

oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see

Sometimes God can feel distant and far away, and the truths about God can seem hard to take hold of.

When we feel worn down by life, the Holy Spirit can bring us comfort and peace. But how do we actually experience the Holy Spirit at work in our lives?

This is the fourth of the Come and See weekly films from Bishop Steven. It accompanies daily email reflections throughout Lent.

See the journey so far and join us at oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see

Even on the best of days, there are shadows in our lives – darkness created by our human tendency to mess things up. There’s a shadow at the end of our journey too. The Bible calls it ‘the shadow of death.’

The third part of the Creed makes the remarkable claim that Jesus rose from the dead, three days after he was crucified. What does that mean for the darkness within us? What lies beyond that final shadow?

This is the third of the Come and See weekly films from Bishop Steven. It accompanies daily email reflections throughout Lent.

Find out more and join at oxford.anglican.org/come-and-see

When all around us is in chaos, coming back to the Father can help us recover a sense of identity and purpose. But what’s the next step on our journey?

The four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – unfold the powerful truth of Jesus. But they weren’t written to simply tell us about him – they invite each of us to take the next step and follow Jesus for ourselves.

Come and see more…

As far as we know, we are the only part of the whole universe able to consider the cosmos and its meaning. But who gave us that desire – the need to know and understand what we are created for?

From the very first line of the creed, we place our faith in God, the creator of heaven and earth. But God is more than just our maker – from all across the universe, his great love is calling us home. Come and see it for yourself.

Over the course of the pandemic, many people have been asking questions about faith. In fact, one in five people in our online congregation were not regular worshippers before COVID.

So now we want to invite everyone who is searching for truth and meaning to go deeper. As a Church, and across the Diocese, we are sending out a big, warm, open invitation to everyone, whether or not you know anything about the Christian faith: Come and See.