Wednesday, 13 May 2009

A mixed post is this. It tries to bring my thoughts on two different events to which I was exposed in the last 24hrs.
Last night I attended the Bishop’s Visitation in which Church Wardens were commissioned for the next year.

The Bishop of Rochester gave the charge. It was so refreshing to hear Bishop Michael speak in the way he did. Our contingent left refreshed and uplifted.
Bishop Michael told us that during his time as Bishop his driving force was to encourage the diocese to put the Bible in a central position. Reflecting on the Articles of Visitation he encouraged us to reflect upon the practice of the presence of God without which any growth in Church will be only external. This presence of God will enable us to be a true and real presence to each other within the community of Faith and to those outside this community to whom we are called to minister. Bishop Michael also reflected on the meaning of power. Jesus gave up all power by his death on the cross; he and his followers do not seek earthly power. In the process of giving this power up he released a new power, the power of the Resurrection, the power that makes us Church and keeps us alive. This leads to proclamation in word and deed, the gospel we are to proclaim in the power of the Resurrection. Bishop Michael also reflected on Order. Our God is a God of Order over chaos, and our worship needs to reflect that. This order leaves room for the spontaneity of the Spirit in liturgy and in our life of prayer. Finally the Bishop spoke to us about Mission. He urged us to be aware how to use this word, as if everything is considered as mission we will end up with no mission at all. We were urged to focus on areas of mission so that all our pastoral activity and Christian life may be carried out in that light.
What wise and encouraging words indeed. Thank you Bishop Michael.

The other event was being exposed to very powerful images and words from the visit of the Holy Father to Bethlehem.

As he visited the Aida refugee camp he said: “Towering over us, as we gather here this afternoon, is a stark reminder of the stalemate that relations between Israelis and Palestinians seem to have reached – the wall. In a world where more and more borders are being opened up – to trade, to travel, to movement of peoples, to cultural exchanges – it is tragic to see walls still being erected. How we long to see the fruits of the much more difficult task of building peace! How earnestly we pray for an end to the hostilities that have caused this wall to be built!”
Some commentators are pontificating about the over politicisation of such event. They do not appreciate the pressure under which Palestinians are living. Some of this pressure leads some Palestinians to retaliate with violence, which is always wrong, and which the Holy Father condemned.
As the Pope prayed where the Prince of Peace was born will it make a difference? As a Christian I hope so with all my heart but if it will have any effect or not we have to wait and see. On our part we need to remember the Christians of the Holy Land and all the other people who live there in our prayers and in our thoughts.
Living in the presence of God cannot take our eyes from the cry of those who suffer injustice both near to us at home and those further afield. But in my ears echo the words of the Pope yesterday at the valley of Josaphat. On one side he had the dome of the rock, the rock were Abraham was called to sacrifice his son. On the other side he had the rock of Gethsemane where Jesus consecrated it with his blood and prayer. Surrounded by these rocks, the Pope proclaimed that the Church is also built on a rock and though the storms rage around the gates of hell will not prevail. Not in Israel, not in England and
nowhere else. Is there anything better than the reality and truth of Christian hope?

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