Bp Stephen Croft–Presidential Address to the recent Oxford Diocesan Synod

There are echoes of course of the feeding of the five thousand in John 6, of the last supper, of the Eucharist. The risen Christ is gathering his tired disciples to nourish them with his own presence, to be with them, to build them up, to bring healing and faith and hope again. This simple invitation, this sacramental action, comes before the more challenging dialogue which follows between Jesus and Simon Peter. The order is important.

And this is the invitation we need to hear for ourselves and to give as a church in this present time. This will be a season to set a tempo of gentleness and grace. That may not be easy. We have lost the habit of meeting together. There are any number of things we can argue about. Local finances will be stretched. There may not be enough resources or enough people to do the work. Congregations will probably not return all at once: there will be a need to listen, to love, to visit, to shepherd, to woo. It will be tempting to hector or scold or complain, but we should, I think, resist.

This needs to be a season of grace, of regathering. In our worship we will need to emphasise what the Lord has done for us, the everyday miracles of God’s provision. We will need to support one another as we enjoy again, gradually, the fuller opening of our beautiful church buildings; the privilege of Christian fellowship; the joy of singing together, and most of all, the ability to share together once again in the Eucharist, the meal which Jesus gives to us.

This will be a season of remembering and resetting the truth that we are a Church of word and sacrament. We have been sustained over the past year, largely, by the ministries of the word and thank God for that. But there will need to be a rebalancing again, a recentring of our common life on Jesus’ gift to us: to take bread and, in due course, wine, to give thanks, to break the bread and to share it together; ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops