Thursday, March 06, 2014

Disciplined hope - Lenten blogging begins

Today was my last "Bishop's Clergy Consultation & Training day" in Gloucester diocese...That's quite extraordinary, as after 20 years in ministry here (10 as a Reader, 10 since ordination) being part of the diocese seems rather like a synonym for ministry full stop. However, God cleiarly decided it was time I widened my horizons - and though I feel predictably sad at the prospect of leaving so many wonderful people and places where I have been so very happy, I've no doubt at all that the move to Coventry is in response to His call.

However, it was quite odd to realise that this was the last time I'd be part of this particular gathering...and I had high hopes of the day. Our speaker was +Stephen Croft, his topic "Evangelism and Nurturing Faith in 21st century" - and I came away with alot to ponder - not least the possibilities of the new "Pilgrim" course, which may be just what I need as I try to find new ways to nurture the Cathedral community in Coventry.

What struck me above all, though, was his emphasis on our need, wherever we are in the Church, to recover a sense of hope as a theological virtue. I'm all too familiar with the need to regard love as an act of will, a discipline rather than a warm and fuzzy feeling. Indeed, I say as much to every couple with whose wedding I'm involved - but somehow I had failed to make the transition from love to faith and hope. For me, hope had become mainly a feeling of fervent optimism - and not something to I focus on even when I feel no positive emotion at all.

But of course he's right. 
If we accept Paul's basic premise that 
"these three remain, - faith, hope and love" then hope must be a choice that we can make daily, a reflection of our confidence in God's endless love.
I'd been dithering gently over a suitable Lenten practice - but it seems to me that one has been presented to me on a plate in the faintly unlikely context of a clergy training day.

I will find at least one sign of hope every day - and will try to blog it, in word or picture, when I can.

Today's is a welcome counter to the despair I've been feeling in the past week over B. (aka S) a local alcoholic about whom I've blogged before. 
It was knowing him that propelled me into involvement with Marah, the trust that seeks to provide support for the homeless and vulnerable in our community - but B seems determined to shoot himself in the foot again and again, so that he is now excluded from virtually every kind of hostel and support scheme in the county. He spent last weekend sleeping in the church - but we all knew that this was no long-term solution - and it seems very hard to envisage any happy ending at all. 
However, when I turned up at the Presbytery for a Marah trustees' meeting, Fr Tom my RC colleague had a story full of hope to share.
He had been travelling to a funeral today, driving with the bearers in the hearse when one produced some money for the imminent "Cardboard City" sponsored sleep-out because, he said, he had once been a Marah client - but thanks to the intervention of wise and compassionate people he had made the journey from rough sleeping, through working as a volunteer in a homeless project in another place, to paid employment - and more than 10 years dry.
He told Fr Tom that his life had been completely turned around - because he had been shown that others had faith in him, that they refused to write him off as just one more alcoholic but saw his potential to change and grow.

I wonder if any of those involved in supporting him 14 years ago agined such a positive outcome. But they planted seeds of kindness that gradually bore fruit in a life transformed.
Something to inspire at the very least some fervent prayer - and the dawning of a faint hope even for B., and so many others like him.

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