The five churches in the Modbury Mission Community face change with the retirement of Neil Barker. Who will be appointed? What will he/she be like? What new ideas will he/she have? What changes will there be?
There is some truth in the suggestion that when a vicar retires, half the congregation want his successor to be a clone of his predecessor (“such a lovely man”) and half want someone completely different who will do all the things his predecessor failed to do! There have always been opposing view about change, and “new-fangled” appears in the Book of Common Prayer, as the following extract shows
“Whereas in this our time, the minds of men are so diverse, that some think it a great matter of conscience to depart from a piece of the least of their Ceremonies, they be so addicted to their old customs; and again on the other side, some be so new-fangled, that they would innovate all things, and so despise the old, that nothing can like them, but that is new: it was thought expedient, not so much as to have respect how to please and satisfy either of these parties, as how to please God, and profit them both.”
These tensions are still with us 400 years later, with some hankering after the “old” services in church and others wanting to ditch liturgy altogether. We all have our preferences, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But spiritual maturity means being willing to worship on occasion in an “alien” style which others like.
The Bible reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, and today and for ever”. He is the Saviour for all time, whose promises are constant and true. The Christian gospel is an unchanging one. But it is not a fossilised, dead message; we proclaim it in ways which reach people of every kind.
So let’s profit from each others’ preferences, look for ways to proclaim Jesus Christ and seek above all to please and glorify God. And during this time with no Rector, let’s use the prayer in the Parish Profile:
Almighty God, you know all our needs. Look graciously at this time on the people of this benefice. Send to us as Rector a faithful pastor, someone after your own heart, that, by your blessing, many may be brought to the joys of your eternal kingdom in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.