Rector's Letter - August 2003
My Dear Friends,
I am currently preparing for a fifteen day exercise on the borders of Kazakhstan as chaplain to a unit composed of British, Polish and Ukrainian airborne forces. There is much preparation to do: getting fit, checking kit, sorting out cover for the Parish. But one particular issue seems to be outweighing the others, namely, insects. I need a mosquito net, have to have my clothes impregnated with insecticide, and must get immunised against a whole range of insect-borne diseases I have not even heard of before.
These insect related risks are not just theoretical. Parishioners may recall that last year I contracted Lyme Disease whilst away with the army. There are only 100 cases in the UK annually and yours truly was one of them. One single, anonymous, insignificant (and now well-fed!) little deer tick ruined my whole summer. That tiny beast affected not only my health but also my diary as the spirochete infection it delivered into my system grew and multiplied. It brought me to my knees.
My preparations to face again the onslaught of such innocent little creatures have made me ponder… You see a few years ago I met some largely unremarkable Christians whose names I must confess I can't even recall now, but I do remember they talked to me about their faith at dinner, in the bar, over a coffee, on the coach. They "infected" me with the Gospel idea which grew and multiplied in my consciousness until, to my great joy, it took over and transformed my whole life.
I frequently meet Christians who feel they cannot possibly have any part to play in evangelism, bringing people to faith or the growth of the Church. They believe their contributions are of insect-like proportions, a minor irritant on the flanks of society. What they don't realise is that their small words and small deeds matter. The infectious message a Christian carries has a power out of all proportion with the mere individual who delivers it.
If we bear a vigorous variety of the Christian faith, there is something deeply contagious about its nature. Too often, however, our Christian faith is a weak watered-down version of the real thing. It has more in common with the immunisations I am currently receiving than the virulent infections I might encounter in Kazakhstan, and the result is often the same: we are prevented from catching the living thing because of an earlier encounter with the dead version.
Please don't underestimate your own influence in this world. Peoples lives can be changed by chance encounters, casual conversations and small actions - for both good or ill! Just take responsibility for the Christian faith inside you. Ensure it is real, humane, open and joyful. You may be a million miles away from being the next Billy Graham, but that which is inside you has the power to bring people to their knees!
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