THERE is something about bishops when they retire: it seems that many of them have time at last to reflect on Christian faith and practice, and some of them decide to write down their thoughts.
Robert Paterson would seem to be the latest to do this sort of thing. He retired as Bishop of Sodor & Man in 2016, and Making Christ Visible is not so much an attempt to summarise the Christian faith — although there is a very useful catechism of sorts towards the end of the book — as an appeal to live the Christian life as it should be lived.
Paterson knows full well that for most people today Christianity does not have any automatic place, and so his style is clear, simple, and assumes nothing. Step by step, the reader is challenged to consider what it means to be a follower of Christ.
An undertow here is the importance of distinguishing between being a convert and being a disciple. It is all very well getting people to go to church and say the right things, but how is that meant to express itself outside the church doors?
Paterson says: “If our aspirations for growth are all about saving the Church, instead of giving ourselves to God and offering good news to the world, we will simply find ourselves drawn into a struggle for survival. In all sincerity we may be looking for the renewal of the system instead of searching for the kingdom of God. In doing so, the danger is that we may fail to notice the King at work.”
I am forever reminding my congregation that nobody said anywhere that being a Christian was easy: the good news is not comfortable news. In the best way, Paterson reminds us of this truth, much needed in a world in which religious belief and practice are all too often hijacked in the cause of self-fulfilment or social conformism.
The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary’s, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest-Vicar of Westminster Abbey.
Making Christ Visible
Church Times Bookshop £6.75