I have been blessed to work for some very good bishops in the dioceses of Lichfield, Coventry, and Oxford. My beloved Bishop (and friend) in Oxford, John Pritchard, was once asked on the radio about mission. He said this:
I don't think that mission generally is about collecting nice Christians into safe places.
I agree with that. We do have some very nice Christians in Great St Mary's! And I hope that, in every proper respect, Great St Mary's is a place of safety, not least for our children, and those who are vulnerable.
But the mission of the church is not about making everyone feel nice and warm for an hour or so on a Sunday morning. In our case it is about recognizing God at work in the Marketplace, in the University, in our midst - and then helping others to make the connections between their lives, and the life of God. Our worship is there to enable us to encounter God afresh Sunday by Sunday so that we are fuelled by his word and sacrament to serve Him. That's why the prayer at the end of the service makes it so powerfully clear - after we have thanked God for feeding us, we ask Him to send us out, not for our benefit, but for His: for His praise and glory.
As this eMag makes clear, there is a lot of change in the air. A lot. And there is much more to come. The Parochial Church Council are spending a day together in two weeks' time to engage with some of the really big questions about our life as a church and our ministry in Cambridge. Some think this is a bad time to be doing this. On about two and a half days a week, I'm one of them. But on four and a half days a week I know that 'the spirit of divine discontent and longing' is moving - and we need to attend to what He is saying.
For many any notion of change is a fearful thing: for others it will be a thrilling and exciting thing. Many – perhaps most – will be somewhere in between. Cardinal Newman famously wrote 'In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.' So I hope that we, the nice Christians of Great St Mary's (!), will listen to the Spirit together, and face change with courage, and with hope. For only God does not change; and when we are in his hands, what is there to fear?