“Change” is often heard as a negative word for many parishes. Whether it’s because we inherently look for stability in a fragile world, or because our experience of change is often challenging, when that word is uttered it’s almost like a shiver goes through people.
Yet as Christians we are constantly called to be renewed and transformed by God – to be changed. As the church we are called to proclaim afresh the gospel for each generation, to go into the darkness with Christ’s light – to bring change. We follow a God who often calls people out from where they are, to establish them in a new place – bringing change. It is the substance of life and faith that change constantly happens!
It is however still fairly scary. As someone who has lived in many different places so far in life and been part of various churches along the way with diverse expressions of worship, change is more normalised and yet still unsettling. If you are a small parish faced with declining numbers, little finance, and big questions about your future, where most people have worshipped their whole lives, change is deeply difficult, despite being necessary for new life.
As I journey with two such parishes in West Bradford, I am aware more than ever of the need to fix our eyes on Jesus. I often return to this verse: “let us run with perseverance, the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). I also often think of the early church and how it must have been both exhilarating and unsettling, being sent out to share the gospel with people of different languages, cultures and religions.
If we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will find ourselves more able to weather the change, to catch the wind of the Spirit and be drawn to new springs of life. For where the Spirit is, there will be life!
Revd Philippa Slingsby-Lunn
Interim Associate Minister in West Bradford