Bishop James gives Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod

"In so many ways, things going on in us and around us through these days have been raising questions of how we honour and give worth to others and indeed to ourselves."

In his presidential address to Diocesan Synod on Saturday 13 March, Bishop James spoke about the disparity that the pandemic has exposed in society.

Diocesan Synod is the elected body that assists the Bishops and the Diocesan leadership team to support and oversee the work of the Diocese, approve the budget, and debate important local and national issues affecting the Church.

During the session that took place online, Bishop James asked how we could better embody the understanding laid out in Isaiah 43: 1-7, that each one of us is called by name, precious, and of great worth to God.

Click here to read Bishop James' presidential address in full

"One of the pieces of liturgy which I have come to treasure through nearly 17 years in episcopal ministry is the phrase which the confirming bishop says to each individual as they come to be confirmed: 'God has called you by name and made you his own'. 

"And though in the original context those words are addressed to the people of God as a whole – embodied as Jacob and Israel – they have spoken powerfully down the ages to people both individually and collectively.  The passage goes on to speak about how the people are precious and honoured in God’s sight, such that God is with them as they pass through various torments and challenges and gathers them back together when they are scattered.

"This is a passage which may well have spoken to many through these days of pandemic as humankind has faced a peril which we have had, until recently, no means to control and which even now continues to spread dangerously in many parts of the world and to dominate our ways of living even where the infection rates are falling."

He continued:

"With its focus on our belonging to God, called by name and precious, our passage from Isaiah encourages us to think about who we are, how we see ourselves and one another.  Each one, called and named, is indeed precious, of great worth to God.  That should prompt us to be confident in our own identity and being as one who is so loved by God; and it should also shape our behaviour and relating to others who likewise are loved by God. 

"And yet, events and behaviours in these times raise questions around that."

He went on to praise the many encouraging stories of how churches and individuals have been making real efforts to recognise the value of others through engaging with them in acts of care and service:

"Whether this be individuals being good neighbours and friends or churches and other groups working together to serve their communities, there are some brilliant examples of how people have been noticed, valued and cared for. 

"That is often through organised responses to need such as food banks, community care initiatives, telephone contact schemes, initiatives to address homelessness and many more such.  It is also seen in individuals taking the trouble to check on neighbours, telephone the more vulnerable, offer to do the shopping and so forth. 

"There has been a recognition of those most vulnerable in our midst, a focus especially on the perils of isolation and a particular concern for the elderly, not least where their own families may not be nearby."

He acknowledged, however, the differences that Covid-19 has also exposed in society:

"But these days have also exposed the divisions in our society – including our global society – which make plain that, whatever spin you try to put on it, all lives are manifestly not valued to the same degree.  At least that is what appears strongly to be the case, given that lives have been affected so differently.  We may be navigating the same ocean, but some of the vessels in which we do so are clearly less seaworthy than others."

"As we turn to a future, how may it be that we can be God’s way of saying to others, whether next door or thousands of miles away, that they are precious in the sight of God, that God calls them by name, that they belong to him?  Each person of value to us and to God.  May that indeed be the reality which we seek to embody and express in all that we are and do."

Click here to read Bishop James' presidential address in full



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