Over the past couple of months, I have been speaking about the Annunciation [Luke 1:26-38] and offering the metaphor of a pregnancy to help us think about our life together within this team.
Of course, there is no one successful way of communicating when we are so many across such an area, so here are those thoughts in printed form for you to read, ponder, disagree with, discuss, ask me questions about… it will also be up on our new team website;
www.stroudparishchurches.org.uk, which you may want to direct people to if you think they would be good to include in the conversation.
Grace and peace, Kate
As you know, I was appointed as Team Rector, to care for and facilitate the life of the Stroud Team. But where do I, and we begin in this? I offer you a metaphor that may help our thinking about the life of the Team; a pregnancy.
For Mary, as well as the stirrings of new life, and the expectancy of all that could be, there was surely fear, so much to let go of,
and a sea of uncertainty ahead of her.
As the Stroud Team, conceived some years ago now, we have experienced some miscarriages, there have been those who,
subconsciously or consciously, would have liked to abort this new life.
There have been hopes and expectations, anxieties and uncertainties. None of us can pretend that this has been an ideal start. And yet, God asks, the new life keeps returning, and there is a stirring in the womb.
Linguistically, womb and wound both derive from the same root; an opening. Both do, or can, involve trauma, and we would be foolish not to name the traumas we have been through in this gestation so far. If we ignore those wounds, infection can set in, and healing is less likely.
To name those hurts will require honesty and trust, patience and listening, but we cannot underestimate how important this work is.
And now we are in this season.
This new life of the Stroud Team is growing. As with any new life growing, some will yearn for their single life, where they only had to consider themselves, where there was less responsibility.
This is understandable, and recognises that, as with Mary, there are many of our old expectations and norms to give up, and lots of uncertainty ahead. People feeling this way may want to deny this new life is even here, and cling to the single life. But none of that changes the fact that the new life of our Stroud Team does now exist, and that the old single life is no longer an option.
For others, they will accept, they will say their yes to this new life,
but they may be overwhelmed by the uncertainty. They may struggle to trust that this is a gift, and rather see this new life of the Stroud Team as a burden, an extra thing to worry about, life draining.
This too is understandable; it is thoroughly human to be wary of what we don’t know. It is hard to put down old patterns of being and move into something new, no matter how much we long for transformation. But none of that changes the fact that the new life of our Stroud Team is ripe with possibilities.
And there will be those who say a heartfelt yes and welcome this new life as a gift from God. Not naive to the challenges and struggles of gestation, but full of hope for the new life that emerges. They may be well aware that the old single life is becoming unviable and they long for God to do a new thing.
For many of you here, you may move from one position to the other, and back again, from anxiety to denial to hope and back…
But now is the time. Wishing it wasn’t so will not change anything, because this is who we are. The life of the Stroud Team is growing,
so the question we are left with is what kind of parents we are going to be?
Because this is not my new life, at most I am simply the midwife.
This is not my baby, this is something we are part of. This is our new life, and we can only nourish it from ourselves. Of course, if some members of the family of our Stroud Team continue to deny its existence, the new life will not thrive as it could.
Who knows how long the gestation will be…
and who knows what complications there may be…
but it is my longing, and the call that brought me here to minster alongside you, that we would all move from denial, through the fear and anxiety of the early stages to the hope and excitement of the imminent new being, and all that will bring, trusting God to be faithful in return for our faithful yes.
As a diocese we have this key verse of scripture; ‘I have come that they may have LIFE and have it to the full.’ [John 10:10]
My hope and prayer is that we could each find our yes to what God has for us, and the new life that has begun as our Stroud Team, so that we can each nourish and nurture that new life, that we can commit to seeing it grow, that we can be expectant and excited.
Not hankering after the single life that was, but actively moving towards the new life that is emerging.
I really do believe that this is ripe with possibilities, and together, we can indeed find life to the full. But, as with all of life, we will get out what we put in.
In all of this I ask for your prayerful honesty.
As we accept that things are not, and cannot be as they were, and as God calls us into this new life, can you say your yes?
Even if that is simply to offer the grace to allow this life to grow.
Are you courageous enough to name the wounds that have been inflicted in this gestation so far, and the fears you have as this life grows? Are we committed enough to one another to seek and offer healing? And are we willing to be open enough to dare to imagine the fruitfulness of this new life?
We are not in a rush, but this morning, as we gather together, to worship, to celebrate and to eat together, is a great way of nourishing this new life that is stirring.