Rector's Letter - October 2003
My dear friends,
Waiting for a delayed flight at Schiphol Airport last month I wandered back and forth through the concourse browsing the facilities on offer. In an expensive perfumery I indulged in a squirt of Aramis from the tester bottle, spent half-an-hour in the 'meditation room', briefly considered the public massage service for tired travellers but thought better of it, and then settled upon browsing a well stocked book shop - an indulgence I am rarely afforded.
The business section was, as always, pleasantly diverting. There, next to the Leadership Secrets of Ghengis Khan, another title caught my eye: Against the Gods - the remarkable story of risk. It recounts the history of risk from the gamblers of Ancient Greece throwing their astragali and hoping for a VI, to the stock market investors of the third millennium. It is a ripping yarn, full of spectacular stories of success and failure from the early spice traders to the latest Nobel prize winning scientists. 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained' would seem to be the book's maxim.
As I stood there, I couldn't help but reflect on the place of risk within the Christian faith. A divine incarnation into the cultural backwater of the Roman Empire may seem providential and profound, but it was hardly 'safe'! Christ placing His gospel into the hands of a small band of disciples who's track record was decidedly shaky might be seen as purest folly, but 2000 years later we are still here and number in millions. It made me think how far the Church has drifted from its roots, its martyrs and its missionary adventures. The Church of England, and especially its Churches in the countryside, have grown infamously risk-averse. Curious really, when the countryside is a notoriously risky place to do business - ask any nervous farmer this Harvest-tide!
We are static, conservative and traditional. We have fossilised the dunamis of God (His 'dynamite', His power, His Spirit). The Church has become a by-word for boring, when our heritage is radical and dynamic. There a few guarantees in the Christian faith except that the life of a true pilgrim will be full of challenges and change, a roller-coaster ride of thrills and spills. And here's a thought: the further our experience of Christianity has drifted from that sort of description, the further I suspect we have drifted from its truth.
But maybe it's me? After all, I am the vicar who broke his back skiing and still jumps out of aeroplanes. Perhaps it's me that has a distorted perception of what is risky and what is right? … I suspect we shall be better working on this together!
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