Many of us who read this in parish magazines or on line will have been among the 90,000 people visiting the Devon County Show last month. It showcases the life of the county in a fascinating way and gives a great boost to rural crafts, local produce and countryside activities alongside the fierce but friendly rivalry in the livestock and equestrian sections.
We live in a part of the country with a wonderful diversity of high moorland and inner city, seaside town and rural hamlet, new housing estate and ancient village. Many come here as tourists or to retire but this is also a place where most of us work, bring up families and enjoy our leisure.
The 612 churches and chapels of the diocese are as varied in their locations and ministries as the communities they serve. In some the congregation runs into hundreds, in others it can be counted on the fingers of one hand. During my time in Devon I have been the rector of both. What they all have in common is the call to act as salt and light to the parishes where they are set: salt adding flavour to the life of the community and light in revealing the presence of God in Jesus Christ.
We recall this month how that presence came in a new and transforming way at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit filled the first disciples with a joy and confidence to proclaim the wonderful works of God. The result was a community that devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers (Acts 2:42).
We talk a lot about wanting growth in the diocese but growth, at least in numbers, is best seen not as an aim in itself. It is an outcome of the life of a healthy church, a church which as in Acts, enjoys teaching and fellowship, breaking bread and praying together. To have 612 such churches across the diocese really does enrich the life of the county!
The Rt Rev Nick McKinnel
Bishop of Plymouth