There are two things we need for the mission of God to be effective not just in the resourcing church world but across the church. We need prayerful people, and obedient people. Jesus used parables to highlight the way obedience to the purposes of God enables fruitfulness in the lives of God’s people. Obedience is rooted in listening, and listening is best encountered in the place of prayer. For it is as we pray, (maybe in the silence of a special place; a Holy moment; a liturgical embrace; a cry from the heart) that we encounter God, and in that encounter we are changed. The direction of change is godwards, and that godwards change allows us to be more like Him.
Jesus spoke of two sons, both asked to engage in the Father’s activities, one said yes, one said no, yet it was following a time of reflection that the one who said no actually engaged. The one that said yes, never really did, perhaps he was just too busy! For obedience is not just about listening, but hearing, and in the hearing to engage with the doing, and in the doing to engage with the listening and so on. Then when we think we have arrived we discover that we are still in the foothills and the best views lie ahead so we start listening all over again.
As the resourcing church project came together it was clear that we needed to cultivate a culture of prayer and obedience across the diocese. We recognised that such a culture has been a part of our region since at least the fifth century so there is nothing new here, but we need to add energy and opportunity to our 21st century context. Building on that which has gone before does give to all of us today the confidence that God is more than able to do it again, and again, and again.
However, our heritage only matters if it feeds into the life of todays church, if we were a 19th century football team that no longer played football, or a medieval restaurant that now only sold washing machines, we would quickly be dismissed as either a football team or a restaurant. On the other hand if we take the name Christian and then live as followers of Jesus then the followers of Jesus that have gone before teach us that world changing is just normal. One of those followers of Jesus who impacted our region was Saint Cuthbert.
There is a lot of romantic reinvention of Celtic spirituality today and that brings with it a beauty and richness that I love. The diocesan Cathedral is Saint Cuthbert’s final resting place, we have many churches dedicated to him, but perhaps what we need to rediscover through his example is the determined desire to win converts regardless of the challenge and to root that in a life of listening and obedience. To that end one of the aspects of the resourcing church project that is unique to the North East is the forming of a ‘Community of St Cuthbert.’
Based in Durham the community will be headed by a prior to be recruited in 2019. The community will dispersed across the diocese and based around five rhythms that will enable prayer, encourage listening, and help discern vocation.
The five Rhythms are not rules that dictate how people behave, but rather a starting point that can help us to understand who we are, and what we need to do to grow as disciples of Christ. The community will be officially established following the appointment of the Prior but we believe the rhythms will look something like this:
1: Resolve to Pray each day
- Spend time with God in Prayer.
- Pray for at least ten minutes each morning or evening
- Spend time listening to God as well as speaking to him.
2: Ask the Holy Spirit to be present & active
- Before you read the Bible, pray that the Holy Spirit will make the words come to life.
- Look at the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-11.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what new gifts you might receive.
3: Set aside time for Study and Learning
- Read a passage from the Bible each day.
- Use reading notes or study guides to deepen your understanding of the Bible and wider issues of theology.
- Read a Christian book, listen to a podcast or watch a film that will encourage, inspire or challenge you.
4: Serve others & Work for Justice
- Recognise God’s bias to the poor at home and abroad
- Undertake acts of generosity without being asked.
- Get involved in a community initiative that will help others.
- Oppose inequality and injustice whenever you encounter it.
5: Share my faith with others
- Participate in God’s Mission both locally and globally
- Ask God to give you the courage to share your faith.
- Look for opportunities to explain what you believe to close friends or relatives.
- Get involved in a world-mission initiative: offer prayerful, practical or financial support.
With groups meeting regularly, prayer and obedience leading to discernment and action we believe that this will resource the whole people of God as we strive to live out His purposes. So do pray for the Community of St. Cuthbert, pray for the one called to lead it, the many called to participate, the hope that it will engender. Then thank God for the heritage that takes us this way, and watch out for how you can get involved.