Dr Stephen Harrison has now been working as Executive Director of our Parishes and other Missions Commission for a while now. He’s bringing a tireless energy and laser-sharp focus to the ministry which we here at FormedFaith are really excited about.
Back at his commissioning, Dr Harrison delivered his manifesto for the future of our Church. As is typical of Stephen, it was to the point and an inspirational read.
Take a few moments to get excited about where we’re going…
“Thank you for coming today to support me in my commissioning. I have appreciated the encouragement I have received from many people since my new role was announced.
Over the last few weeks people have been asking me – so what is the job?
Answering this question has been a helpful exercise for me. It has required me to really reflect on my focus and distil it to a few points.
Although my response to the “what is the job” question has been changing I think if you ask me in a year I will still say:
Help faith communities and mission agencies in the Diocese flourish.
Flourish for me means:
To be healthy, to live out the fullness of our mission in Christ, to do all we are called to do, to grow, to grow disciples and to grow our connection with the wider community as we serve the world. In other words: To be faithful.
I realise (and I am sure you do too) that I don’t have all the answers to how we do this effectively.
But I believe that as we move forward, as we work together, in the grace of God, we will find them. My role is to stimulate some of this solution finding, to encourage it to resource it, that in our mission we might be effective.
It isn’t a secret that the church in Australia and the whole of the western world is struggling.
Not just the Anglican Church but most churches. Many many books have been written on what has happened, on how we find ourselves in this moment.…and many more on how we make a new future.
There are no easy or comfortable answers.
But how we move forward is important.
The Christian Church…and indeed the Jewish faith out of which it emerged has always had a particular way of going forward…it is a going forward while looking back.
Imagine being in a rowing boat – the boat moves forward but the rower looks back…this is the church….
It is important we move forward…but we must look back….
Too often we look back. But not far enough.
If we look back ten or twenty or fifty years and stop we see a healthier church…
This can make us feel fearful, fragile, anxious.
We must look extend our vision.
When I was a young person my mother who was active in a church community wider than our local church would take me with her to an all-night Easter eve event – there would be scripture reading and storytelling and reflection and liturgy – the events of salvation history would be recounted…
One of the songs they would sing is called Dayenu which is part of the Jewish Passover. The word means “it would have been good enough”. The song is about the Hebrews escape from Egypt and it goes through all the big and little things God did for them…and the refrain is – that would have been good enough, would have been good enough.
There are fifteen stanzas starting with “If He had brought us out of Egypt…that would have been good enough, would have been good enough…and ending with “If He built the Temple for us.” That would have been good enough.
In our current moment…we need to look back, not only to recount all God has done for us…not only in scripture, but also to our history as a church…not only to see the good God has done for us and give thanks….but to draw strength on the realisation that things have been tough before…
We have struggled with numbers before….
We have been divided before…
We have needed to find our way before…
And if we go back far enough…we have found ourselves frightened that all is lost before…
…our story is that death is not the end…
We are in the words of Wendell Berry to Practice Resurrection….
We are to remember it, retell it, embed it, and live it…
We are to draw strength from the fact of it…
Now more than ever we who follow Jesus…need to remember that we are resurrection communities…and we need to draw strength and hope and inspiration from this.
May God encourage us in our going out, in our searching and in our growing.”