July’s Letter 2021
‘It is very important for a priest, in the parish itself, to see how people trust in him and to experience, in addition to their trust, also their generosity in pardoning his weaknesses.’ Pope Benedict XVI
‘I look upon the whole world as my parish.’ John Wesley
Well, I’m writing this letter the day after Boris put the rollout back one month. Many churches up and down the country are asking again ‘How do we support our communities when we can only get close to people in such limited ways?” Please be clear the first and primary question for us is how do we support our communities – the teachers and children and parents in our schools; the carers and elderly and vulnerable in our nursing homes; the men and women who are asking about Baptisms, weddings, and even the fundamental questions of life? Other people look to the parish to carry out the role of praying for and burying the dead. From the 14th June I’ve got 7 funerals in the next few weeks! And then there’s all our outreach, pastoral care, and prayer ministries which go on quietly in parishes.
Coming out of lockdown we have a shared interest and, I think, desire in making our communities better; in helping all people, not for some reward but to help them (men, women, and children) realize how very precious they are. We are all in one way or another fragile at this time. We have a mixture of hope and fear; of joy and trepidation. My personal view of the parish is captured in the quote above from John Wesley the co-founder of the Methodist movement. ‘The world is my parish’. By this, I feel that the vicar, priest or rector, etc. has the privilege of valuing and loving and being there for everyone who lives in the parish. Some may disagree but I am here to serve the locality just as much (if not more) as the churchgoers.
I believe the church has something to offer in the Person of Jesus Christ. He offers healing and salvation and nurturing and so much more.
Even at its best, though, we often fail. The church is the Body of Christ. This idea is found in the very early teachings and traditions of Christ and His church. The church within the parish is not offering you a contract – not saying ‘well, if you sign up to this set of beliefs you’ll be treated better!’ Our churches in Darley Dale, in South Darley, and in Winster: value, love and are here to serve you because God, from the beginning of time, loved you.
Now as we move out of this lockdown, we have a chance to remind you, even though you may have been through terrible events during these terrible days, that you are loved and special and my own belief is that the Church, its Scripture, Sacraments, and Traditions has so much to offer our world. Post lockdown we may need to humbly retell the story of Jesus the Christ. Maybe using new ways and new words but the Truth never changes. God in Jesus died for all of us to bring us healing and Redemption.
At the moment there are people in the church and outside the church who have lost faith in the ministry of hospitality and of quiet love and service in our rural areas. They want ‘big shows, brash and loud and full of entertainment.’ I love those things every time I see Alice Cooper or Iron Maiden or Shinedown, but where church is concerned, I want honest, humble, gentle love. I want to celebrate the different seasons and the mixture of new and old. Loud and brash shows do not last.
Our parish churches are a promise to be present among you; to stand with you in good days and bad; to laugh and cry with you and to point you to a truth that is deeper than our deepest brokenness. God loves us. The parish church is not committed to you for one year or ten but for centuries past and centuries to come. We love you.
Please help us to serve you better – tell me what you want the church to do in our community. Contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope these final words help you think of what you want from your parish churches. With my love and prayers.
At the parish level, where the church lives and moves and breathes, that’s where we need to be engaging our people much more in understanding the Word of God… the Word of God reflected in the traditional teaching of the church, the Word of God reflected in the scriptures, is as much a part of their lives as anything else. Donald Wuerl
Revd. Stephen Monk