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22 December 2016


Joyful meeting
AT THE risk that this becomes known as the “Bishop Jan column”, I have pleasure in recording another encounter with our (fairly) new Suffragan Bishop. This was on the occa­sion of the first confirmation for our two parishes for many years. The candidates ranged in age from ten to 84, and it was a coming to­­gether of groups in the con­grega­tions that may not normally have much contact; we were also able to welcome two young candi­dates from another parish in our recently extended deanery.

The atmosphere was full of joy and thanksgiving, and there was a sense of hope and a new beginning.


Soup and a frisson
ANOTHER happy occasion (with­out the Bishop, for once) was our convent’s Super Soup day. We invited neighbours, local con­grega­tions, and anyone we could think of to enjoy home-made soup and raise money for the Derby Churches’ Night Shelter Project, which offers a hot meal, company, advice, and a warm safe place to sleep for home­less people in the city.

Our publicity had been only too effective; so we were soon running out of soup — but, even if our visitors did not eat their fill, they still gave generously.

This kind of event helps us to keep in touch with our friends from many contexts, and, of course, allows them to meet one another and make new friends whom they might not otherwise have known.

The opportunity to “look behind the scenes in a convent”, with its frisson of the forbidden (not that any of what goes on here is all that exciting), may be what attracts some; and others certainly appreciate the chance to sit quietly in the chapel, experience the atmo­sphere, and ask for our prayers.

It all goes to show that there are ways for us to relate to the world outside, even when we are restricted in our mobility and ability to travel. We have to continue exploring how we can best be used in the state we are in now.


Not just statistics
THE Church Times reported re­­search from Canada that indicated that congregations in churches with conservative theology were growing in numbers, while those with liberal theology were declining (News, 2 December).

As is the way with statistics, other academics immedi­at­ely challenged this interpretation, but I began to ask myself why it should be true — if indeed it is.

One thought that occurred to me is that perhaps conservative be­­lievers tend to be, or appear to be, more enthusiastic about their faith. Perhaps their certainty creates the impression that their beliefs are true. After all, it is not altogether easy to show passion about tole­r­ance, open-mindedness, and the willing­ness to entertain the possibil­ity that I might be wrong.

When I entered the Community, a friend asked me why I should bother to be a mission Sister if I did not believe that anyone who had not made an explicit “decision for Christ” would go to hell.

I replied that I did not think I could engage in mission if I did believe that; I could not encourage people to put their trust in so cruel and punitive a God.


Somebody else’s book
BUT, as Pope Francis, with his emphasis on mercy, is discovering, the belief that God goes on loving us whatever we do may be mis­under­stood as meaning that God does not care what we do. What, if we read the Bible, is God passionate about?

The answer, surely, is “justice”. So why should not liberal Christians be liberated to be passionate for justice? This is not in con­tradiction to mercy; on the contrary, it is a precondition of it. It is justice, not mercy, to restore to people neces­sities of which they have been wrongly deprived. There are enough campaigns pursuing such causes to occupy the energies of any liberal Christians who can be roused to make the effort.

And if we are seen to be pas­sionate about such things, perhaps people who also care about them, but have not seen that they have any connection with Christianity, may be moved to join us.


Prayer intention
ALSO in the Church Times, in the course of a glowing review of Carolyn Hammond’s new tran­s­lation of the Confessions of St Augustine, the reviewer mentioned that in the book she had revealed that, while completing it, she was suffering from breast cancer (Books, 2 De­­cember).

During my too-brief sojourn at theological college, Dr Hammond, already an established academic, was a fellow student, and clearly destined for great things. The news that her life might be under threat was a great shock. I know no more than was revealed in the paper, but I hope she knows that my thoughts and prayers are with her.


The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the Holy Name in Derby.

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Thu 20 Apr @ 16:08
The Archbishop of Canterbury has received the specially commissioned King James Bible that will be presented to Kin… https://t.co/u8LMnSFcfV

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