Diocesan Assembly Killarney 10th November 2022
“There will be no one to say ‘Look here’ and ‘Look there.’” (Luke 17:20:21)
As we come to end of our assembly we come to it at that apocalyptic time of year when the readings point us to the end times. We might feel we are in them! That all is coming apart and, despite all our efforts and enthusiasm, we don’t quite know what to do. We have heard in these days of the spiritual hunger of our world, we have heard of our need for a spirituality that is based on communion, mission and participation. A spirituality that is priestly. We have had time to listen, to reflect and to be encouraged as we try to plan the way ahead for pastoral ministry in our diocese. We have spoken today of new forms of ministry, yesterday of people coming from afar to share in our older and essential forms of ministry. And we begin to sense a future of opening up rather than of closing down and that is good, that is appealing, that is reassuring. Very often we are reminded of our mortality, that what was always there may not, will not, always be there. “There will be no-one to say look here or look there.” We feel a restlessness and an ambiguity when we are told we must be different and yet everyday find ourselves having to be the same – to bear the weight of how things have always been done while being called always to do new things. It can leave us spinning, unsure where to look for guidance. “There will be no one to say…… “
I think it is important to acknowledge the strains of transition, especially when transition seems thrust upon us – though we have seen it coming for years! We cannot have a future that is exactly like our past and much must be mourned before we embrace all that is new. But we are also called to be the builders of the new even when we may not fully understand the architects’ plans. A future beckons which promises collaboration and co- responsibility and that future is bright. But we need to be freed of old systems before we are able to embrace what is new. We cannot be dedicated pastors while we are still managers. Something has to give!
We have become a smaller institution than once we were. But Christianity began as a very small group. We need to learn how to be small so that we might know fulfilment. A small institution that tries to be a big one will fail. A small institution that knows how to be small can grow.
It’s been a long story, with many twists and turns, triumphs and disasters but it is the story of God’s reaching out to us, the human race, in Jesus Christ. Our Church has done great things, has been powerful and propertied. But it has always needed to keep in mind that none of this matters except knowing Christ Jesus and him crucified.
There is hope in these dying days of transition, for in Christian mystery dying is about rising again. Hope that we will continue to rediscover all that is essential, all that is authentic and all that is of lasting truth in our faith and our Church. We will minister with new people in new ways and we will share our burdens and our joys. The days of glory will come and the flashes of lightning will light up the sky. “The Kingdom of God is among you”. It always has been – it always will be. May we continue to discover the Kingdom among us and embrace its call to renewal, to growth and to a journey shared with all who are its builders.