Faith in the North | Bishop Smitha | November 2023

On a glorious October day, I was privileged to accompany Archbishop Stephen on a walk from South Ossett to Dewsbury Minster for the launch of Faith in the North; an initiative to celebrate the faith stories of the province.  

The project is inspired by the upcoming 1400th anniversary of the baptism of Edwin by Paulinus in AD 627, and asks the Holy Spirit for the same courage and creativity of those who planted the Gospel in our communities long ago. People like Ethelreda, Oswin, Oswald, Hilda, Cuthbert, James and others who lived in turbulent time and whose constancy is evidenced by churches across the North today.
In uncertain times in which we live, the challenge is to resist the pull of the world and become polarised. How do we find ways to live in harmony with one another and with creation especially where matters of economy, politics, faith and identity run deep and are potentially divisive?  

For times when there is a trembling of the heart, the call of disciples in every generation has always been to discern what God is doing, sacrifice self for others, and hasten the Kingdom. And for this to happen, the touchstone is prayer.  It is a way of participating in the work of God and is formative, a source of unity and a striving for Christ-likeness in common with saints across time and space.

Aged 19, I discovered a rhythm of prayer through Scripture and song which has called me to reconciliation and right relationships ever since.  It has encouraged me to think of Christian witness as something which is reflected in community and in solidarity with others, in simplicity and joy of heart.  My direction for prayer is the Taizé community which on Advent Sunday will welcome and commission Brother Matthew as its new Prior.  

Who would have thought that Br Matthew’s life was also about Faith in the North? He was born in Pudsey, Leeds and has spent his whole life “loving, living, learning” by encouraging young people in their prayer life. Pray for him and for each other in the words of a Taizé chant: “In our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away, that never dies away.” May the divine spark light your life this Advent and beyond.

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