Magazine articles - February 2020

Dear Friends

Our world is full of change. Sometimes it is forced upon us. Changes are not always pleasing to God, others are. Whatever the change, God honours our human actions and adapts his plans. Sometimes God asks us to make big, new and unexpected changes. Whatever happens we must try to be ever alert to ask, ‘what is God’s will?’ Jesus taught us to pray continually, ‘your will be done’.

God’s will is not easy to hear. Finding his will requires us to be open, searching, listening. We can find it in our deepest desires, which are best heard when we are away from the pressures and distractions of day to day life. So too his will can be found in listening to each other’s opinions and ideas. And God speaks through Scripture – we are to ask, ‘what is God saying to me in these words, in this story?

As we enter into an interregnum we move into a state of waiting, listening, hopefully with thanksgiving for what lies behind us, but a longing and expectation for the new possibilities that God desires. Change will be needed now to keep our churches’ living and thriving in the period of no incumbent. There is, and will be uncertainty, perhaps some fear, discomfort and loss.

As our churches move into interregnum they need all its members to work together as one, united together in God. That means new challenges and change. What new thing is God calling you to do? Perhaps something totally new and unexpected? Such a period is an opportunity to discover and develop talents, to make sacrifices, and impetus to get our lives more aligned with God’s will.

Similarly, Marian and I are trying to face up to huge changes to our lives as we ready ourselves for retirement. How might we realign our lives in this new situation? What unexpected callings, talents to discover and use await us?Retirement is a change that feels to me most uncomfortable. There will be sorrow and loss. I need to let go of being a parish priest with all the structure that creates to my identity and activity, to discover a new me, and then to surrender myself anew to God. Sometimes I am feeling as if I am charging towards  a cliff edge into the unknown… perhaps I will learn to fly, or find a parachute; maybe not??? It might be I need to crash, break into pieces, and let God put me back together again? As I approach retirement, God seems to be saying: ‘’Wait James; patience!’’ ‘’But wait in hope’’. It is the way of Christ to be hopeful, in all circumstances.

One thing is certain, moving into retirement or interregnum, we all need the Holy Spirit to direct, strengthen and resource us as individuals, families, churches, schools, workplaces and nations. In so many unknowns, we all need an openness to the movements of the Holy Spirt who is with us bringing hope, strength, courage and direction.

I retire on the first Sunday of Lent. That’s a good day for it. It feels as if I will be going into an extended Lenten period. As Jesus went into the wilderness, away to think over and hear His Heavenly Father, so I need a significant period in a wilderness of nothing much to do and be in the wide open spaces of time and space, listening to God in quietness; through others and through scripture. When things are clearer, I will offer myself afresh and anew into the surprising purposes of God. And as in the daffodils of St David’s Day I will find beauty and promise, but will also know vulnerability and brokeness. All these thoughts seem also to apply to you as you move into an interregnum.

For us all, trying to follow God’s way will be fruitful and life giving, for you as both churches and as individuals, and for Marian and I, for the way of Christ, even in life’s most difficult, challenging times is the way that leads us to life in all its fullness.

With prayers, good wishes and goodbyes