Once again we are at the beginning of a new church year. As with the secular calendar, we can look back and review the previous year.
Nationally, for the church, the most significant event of the last year has been the measure to allow women to become bishops. The process has taken a very long time but, in terms of major revisions of church law and practice, this has been of a different order of magnitude.
The church has narrowly escaped schism and we thank God that we have emerged as a more connected and, hopefully, stronger version for modern times. There are many able women in the church who can now flourish in positions of leadership on equal standing with their male colleagues.
At Diocesan level, we have said goodbye to Bishop John who has served us unstintingly over the last seven years. He has made a huge contribution to church life in the Oxford Diocese and had an impact through his writings, sermons and overall leadership. We wish him well in his retirement to 'God's own Country'. Look out for more of his books in the future.
One of his gifts was his ability to listen to what people were saying at the grass roots of the church and to allow this to inform his ministry. His 'Living Faith' model of the church was the basis for ministry and mission and was a flexible model that each benefice or church could adapt to their local need.
Archbishop Welby has shown strong leadership of the world wide Anglican Communion and has gained respect from many of the provinces that hold different views to our own.
His experience of living and working in the oil industry in Nigeria and his financial acumen have stood him in good stead for the impossible job he has undertaken.
Locally and importantly our Parish is holding its own in terms of its standing within the community.
Rural village communities want a church presence and they can see the benefits that a Christian focus brings to a community. However, the church will only survive if it is supported wholeheartedly. This means not just turning up for major festivals but contributing to the life of the church week by week.
Church membership has an ageing demographic and is not being replenished from the younger age range. Many of the practical jobs that need to be done require able bodied people and we cannot expect folk in their 70s and 80s to shoulder the burden.
As we look ahead to the new church year we need the input from younger people with the energy to make things happen.
A commitment to being part of the active and present church family has the potential for creating and promoting vibrant community life. Christian discipleship is about a relationship with a loving creative God and lived out in our corporate and personal life.
The world around us tells a story of both suffering and pain but also of the incredible beauty and diversity of human relationships. We honour God by service to others for the good of all mankind.
Please make your commitment to your local church a priority for this coming year. Enjoy this Advent season of preparation for the gift of Jesus our Saviour and for his future coming.